Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Siena Tavern, South Beach

Exuberant celeb chef (and former Top Chef contestant) Fabio Viviani has brought his Chicago-based Italian tavern to our beachy shores.
The former China Grill 400-seater is now transformed into an expansive playground of Italian delights. There's an open pizza kitchen, an expansive circular bar and a mix of high and low tables that breaks up the cavernous space, making it somewhat cozy. Yes, there's a signature beer on tap, made by Wynwood Brewing. As for the food.

Florence-born Viviani focuses on the food of his homeland (with a few of grandma's recipes thrown in for good measure). Expect belly-filling fare like hearty pastas, pizzas and slow-cooked meats. A crudo and mozzarella bar round out the uncooked offerings. Prices are high, probably due to the spot's  SoBe address: starters range $14-$22, pizzas in the $20's and mains top out at $42. Start things off with the spot's famous wagyu meatball (it has its own Twitter account, and it costs $22), a baseball-sized orb of seasoned beef topped with creamy ricotta and offset by tangy tomato sauce. The coccoli are a Viviani specialty, composed of fried dough pufflets with truffle-honeyed sheets of prosciutto and a creamy lump of stracchino cheese. Seafood plates from the crudo bar such as balsamic-drizzled hamachi with jalapeno slices and crispy shallots are flavor-packed but still light. Salads include combos such as hearts of palm with avocado and marcona almonds  or farro with shrimp, calamari, roasted peppers and green beans. Pastas are homemade and include Viviani's take on gnocchi with rich truffle cream sauce flecked with fried sage and pancetta and butternut squash-stuffed tortellaci. Homemade gelato flavors come in lemon-olive oil, pistachio and creme brulee (pistachio was the best of what we tasted). A mini-loaf of tiramesu and fresh bomboloni donuts with squeeze bottles of whiskey caramel, chocolate hazelnut, and raspberry chianti sauces are crowd-pleasers but not as gluttonous as I'd hoped. 404 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 534-5577

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