In 1978, Argentine pasta craftsman Richard Sanders emigrated to Miami with his wife, Carmen, and opened The Pasta Factory Company. Thirty-three years later, Richard’s three sons—Rick, Fernando, and Leonard—have taken the rigatoni reins, with Fernando spinning housemade linguine, spaghetti, and fettuccine on his father’s original machine. Rick’s favorite part of the job has been watching 20 years of first dates, many of which transformed into years-long courtships and ended in down-on-one-knee marriage proposals—all within the confines of The Pasta Factory Company’s dining room.
With or without the prospect of a proposal, the Sanders family’s authentic Italian fare grew so popular among diners that they expanded The Pasta Factory Company to several locations. Now guests can fall in love with the first meat pie they meet at the original South Miami location, or speed date through fettuccine and cannelloni at the Pasta Factory Express spots.
Inspired by the menus of neighborhood eateries throughout Naples, the chefs at Fresco Miami combine the traditional and modern as they assemble refined dishes using high-quality ingredients. Pastas, pizzas, and grilled entrees are speckled with familiar flavors such as buffalo mozzarella and imported Italian prosciutto, as well as imaginative adornments such as Maine lobster and edible microchips. Adhering to his own time-tested recipes, Alfredo Forgione and his handpicked team of chefs also churn out oven-crisped Neapolitan pizzas.
Fresco Miami’s décor, much like its cuisine, effortlessly blends contemporary and time-honored styles. The wall art's vibrant reds and purples stand in contrast to the dining room's hues of black, white, and brushed nickel. Outdoors, patio seating allows diners to enjoy their meals as they keep an eye out for the return of their favorite cloud.
Since 1969, Mario the Baker has regaled customers with the rich tastes of vodka sauce, baked eggplant, capicola subs, and cheesy pizzas. Since its inception, the restaurant has grown from a single storefront to a 14-location local fiefdom, built upon a foundation of crafting consistently delicious casual Italian cuisine, thin-crust New York–style pizzas, and traditional pasta dishes. Piping-hot garlic rolls accompany plates of shrimp scampi or chicken francese, and margherita pizzas and pineapple-topped hawaiian pies enliven celebrations of majestic T-ball-league triumphs and inconsequential T-ball-league defeats.
Catharsis is as vibrant as its Calle Ocho neighborhood: whitewashed walls surround tables adorned with wild orchids and flickering candles, framing an inventive fusion of Latin and Italian cuisines. Grilled corvina and creative risotto dishes rank among the menu's star attractions, but the chefs might just as easily tickle palates with guava emulsions, cognac reductions, crunchy plantains, or tomato-mango pico de gallo. The dulcet sounds of Spanish musicians echo throughout Catharsis’s cavernous space, letting diners know when it's a good time to change into their Zorro costume.
Owners Horacio Oliveria and Jennifer Porciello painstakingly plan every detail of their restaurant's decor, including the frescoes and dramatic arches, and their menu to give guests the impression that they've stumbled into a little corner of Italy. As musicians tap their feet on the hand-cut mosaic floors, servers float from table to table, delivering authentic Italian meals and housemade desserts.
Ecco introduces itself with menus for a delectable Italian-style lunch, dinner, or wild pizza spree. Antipastis such as the chilled octopi and potati of Ecco’s polipo e patate ($10), salad-accompanied bruschetta ($7), or bread-crumb-crusted calamari skewers ($10) carouse happily on tongues before sliding delightfully past uvulas. Guests should be mindful of the lobster ravioli ($16) and the melanzane parmigiana ($14), which often attempt to storm uninvited into mouths that are already enjoying zestily diverse pizzas. These pizzas’ doughy décors compete with each other in the form of sausaged and mushroomed boscaiolas ($12), margheritas ($10) with basil and mozzarella, and vegetarianas ($12) annexed by armies of lusty legumes. Between oversized bites, gullets can be cleared with bottled sodas ($2), coffees and teas ($1.50–$3), or a selection from the wine list.