The culinary craftspeople at Java Factory populate a menu with breakfast eats, sandwiches, and build-your-own pizzas inside a café with tile floors and a long wooden coffee bar. Like a wake-up call with a stun gun, flavors from the espresso bar, including a white mocha ($3.50–$3.85) and Java Factory coffee blend ($1.45–$1.85), deliver a morning jolt, and smoothies ($5.50–$6.75) blend fruit and yogurt for hybrid frozen drinks that please palates at all hours of the day. For empty stomachs, smoked ham, egg, cheese, and peppers huddle inside a warm breakfast burrito ($4.75), and the mediterranean tuna panini ($7.75) infuses tuna salad with black olives and chives before topping the medley with a mediterranean spread. Build-your-own flatbread pizzas ($6.50) come with a choice of nine toppings, such as pepperoni, turkey, and olives. Tall chairs line a dark wood coffee bar where beans roast and baristas tell secrets via cryptic foam formations. Shorter seats rest below individual tables clothed in white linens and illuminated by candlelight not emitted by jack-o'-lanterns.
At La Palma, the air is full of so much romance that it seems possible to pluck the moon from the sky with your fork. This is doubly the case if you order the popular Meze Lune Ripiene di Zucca?a pasta dish of moon-shaped, pumpkin-stuffed tortellini glazed with a butter and sage sauce. Even if you don't, though, the restaurant's scenery is enough to make a date memorable: the historic building was designed as a hotel in 1924 by George Merrick, whose Mediterranean architecture dots much of Coral Gables. Inside, fine art curated by the owners draws the eye. Outside, trees swathed in lights and a burbling stone fountain evoke an Italian courtyard. And on Wednesdays through Saturdays, live music adds to the dreamy quality of the setting.
The Northern Italian food also transports diners to Europe. Homemade pastas mixed with seafood and meat sauce abound, including spaghetti with fresh clams and crab-filled ravioli. Entrees of braised veal shank, grilled tuna in a gorgonzola cheese sauce, and New Zealand rack of lamb make for satisfying dinners. There's also a prix fixe chef's special menu, which concludes with a homemade treat you get to choose from a dessert trolley, as long as you don't hop on and demand to be taken to Candyland post haste.
Transcending borders is something of a habit at Francesco. The restaurant boasts four international locations, which include the original locations in Peru as well as restaurants in Argentina and the United States. And the menu transcends culinary borders, routinely featuring Old-World as well as New-World influences. Though the chefs occasionally incorporate Italian flavors and recipes into their dishes, it is their steadfast commitment to South American cuisine that makes Francesco "a terrific ambassador for the food—and warm hospitality—of Peru," according to the Sun Sentinel. Time Out Miami says, "you can't go wrong with the ceviche," and the menu includes numerous variations of this iconic and refreshing dish. Zesty servings of fish, scallops, octopus, shrimp, calamari, and mussels can arrive in mild or spicy sauces, swarming palates with bright, fresh flavors. As evidenced by the ample ceviche selection, seafood is the star of the menu. Sea scallops and Peruvian artichokes put a South American twist on plates of risotto, and grilled swordfish arrives topped with a Peruvian-style chimichurri sauce. With its neutral earth tones, stucco walls, and brightly colored abstract paintings, Francesco's dining area seems to evoke the same casual spirit as its menu. White linens adorn each of the tables, and the padded seats seem to invite diners to linger for a while and savor their meals.
The menu at Il Corso Trattoria overflows with traditional Italian dishes, displaying examples of lasagna, filet mignon, tilapia, paninis, and brick-oven pizzas. Inside the Old World–style eatery, exposed brick columns stand tall as diners feast on chefs' gourmet handiwork and sample wines that flow straight into the restaurant via transoceanic aqueducts.
The dining room charms with gold-framed vintage photographs and fresh flowers, but at Spritz Pizzeria, the real magic happens in the kitchen, where a massive brick oven sears hand-tossed dough into gourmet pizza. Clad in mint green and bright red, the oven's metal fa?ade boasts a '50s sense of cool, with hand-painted white letters spelling Spritz's name around the kiln's marble-slab mouth. While pizza?crowned with the likes of fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, imported salami, and wild mushrooms?draws its own legions of fans, it's not the only thing on the menu. Seafood linguine, chicken parmesan, and tuna tartare with avocado all make appearances on plates, while wines give lonely bottles something to hold after their ships leave for college.
Executive Chef Massimo Giannattasio's career has taken him all over the world, cooking meals in Los Angeles, Northern Italy, and Miami, but perhaps the most important kitchen in which he worked is his mother's. At a young age, she taught him that a chef's intuition is as important as any measurement and that if a chef wears another chef's apron, he withers and dies. Chef Giannattasio and his staff rely on those early lessons in the kitchen of Cibo Wine Bar, where they've curated a menu of both traditional and modern Italian dishes.
Surrounded by columns of neatly stacked Chicago bricks, diners take their seats at tables made of sealed butcher block. Servers produce a wine list to rival a French baron's, and waiters bring out appetizers such as polenta fries or carpaccio. Pastas such as ravioli and gnocchi are hallmark dishes, and the chef prepares seasonal risottos year round. Tender cuts of veal and braised beef short ribs are served second. In addition, the kitchen can bake one of 15 gourmet pizzas for the table, with whole wheat options available.
Cibo Wine Bar won the Miami New Times' Best Wine Selection award in 2012. And once you step inside, it's easy to see why. A huge wine rack soars to the top of the restaurant's vaulted ceiling along one wall—it's so tall that Cibo's wine girl uses a harness and rope to reach the top. A vast, full-service bar pours wines and mixed drinks in the front. In the open kitchen, which is framed by exposed brick walls, chefs scurry to prepare meals, and curing meats hang in full sight of the diners.