Working side by side at Miami Beach's kitchens for nearly a decade, Moshe Petel and Spurgeon Solomon bonded over their love of Italian cuisine. Along with Nicaraguan executive chef Felix Pavon, the Israeli Petel and Honduran Solomon bring an outsider's reverence to Grazie Italian Cuisine's authentic dishes. Six days a week, the amber-lit, 75-seat dining room fills with the aroma of fresh-baked bread, which joins housemade pesto oil and toasted garlic slices to start each meal. For main courses, Chef Felix tosses handmade and gluten-free pasta with ingredients such as crabmeat and gravy as well as cooks bone-in New York strip steaks with a special rub. Classic and specialty cocktails plus domestic and imported wines help to wash down feasts, which come to a close with more than 10 housemade desserts such as chocolate pecan pie and tiramisu. Weekly specials include an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet and happy hour drinks and appetizers.
At Rocco’s Pizza Lounge, a team of pizza Picassos hand-toss dough prepared with imported Caputo flour before painting it with fresh sauce, covering it in a broadcast of cheese and toppings, and sliding it into a wood oven blazing at 900 degrees for crispy, cooked-in flavor. Patrons can dive right into pie heaven with more than 20 gourmet pizzas to choose from, including the tirolese, which finesses senses with fresh mozzarella, san marzano tomatoes, speck, and arugula ($15), or the pizza ala vodka’s vodka-infused pink sauce blanketed by mozzarella, shallots, mushrooms, and prosciutto ($15). Diners can also indulge in fare less easily applicable to mathematics, such as pappardelle tossed with Rocco’s homemade bolognese meat sauce ($15). Rocco’s also accommodates miniature appetites with more than 20 Italian-style tapas, such as the calamari fritti ($9) or uova in purgatorio, poached eggs prepared in a spicy tomato sauce and a course on Dante ($8).
Matteo Giordano came to New York from Sicily by boat on December 22, 1915. Though cargo was light, he managed to bring his tabby’s cat condo and his prized book of recipes that had been passed down through generations. He eventually opened his own bakery and used his family’s tomato-pie recipe to delight the taste buds of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the world’s fair.
Using the light, flaky pastry and rich tomato sauce of Matteo’s tomato pie, The Original Big Tomato owners Richard and Phyllis continue the tradition of classic Italian pizza. Their gourmet tomato pies incorporate unique ingredients such as zucchini, tuna, avocado, and gouda cheese. The sweet Jamaican jerk pizza combines chicken, scallions, carrots, and cilantro onto a circular pie, whereas the fiesta frijoles celebrate south-of-the-border tastes with ground turkey, black beans, and jalapeños. The Original Big Tomato also serves wrap sandwiches and boule salads—fresh greens and vegetables in French boule bread—and also performs catering.
Bargello Bistro plates up a menu of refined comfort-cuisine recipes hailing from such warm-water coasts as Italy, Greece, and Morocco. A bowl of Tuscan minestrone soup ($4.25) makes a fine precursor to a hearty plate of coconut shrimp, served in a sauce that is sweet, spicy, and surprisingly well read ($9.25). A savory selection of gourmet sandwiches quells lunch- and dinnertime cravings ($10.45–$13.45), and Bargello's weekend breakfast menu catches early birds with an appetizing array of omelettes, pancakes, and breakfast paninis ($9.95 each) that can be served in half portions for children under 12 and peckish centaurs ($6.95).
Pastazzi's culinary crackerjacks curate a menu replete with homemade twists on traditional Italian cuisine for noshers on the go. Diners design their own edible masterpieces from many possible combinations of handcrafted pastas and fresh sauces such as penne with bolognesa, cheese ravioli with pomodoro, and gnocchi with creamy alfredo ($7.85–$10.50). Flex jaw muscles like a contestant in the world’s-strongest-jaw competition before decimating the roasted eggplant lasagna ($8.95), or the salami and manchego-cheese panini ($8.25). Mollify insurgent sweet teeth with sugary selections such as the berry tartlet ($4.95) and tiramisu, the traditional italian cake made from lady fingers and espresso whose name translates as "tiramisu" ($4.50).
The chefs at Empire Lounge & Pizzeria toss dough into thin, circular canvases before slathering them in red or white sauce, topping them with handfuls of mozzarella cheese, and crowning them with vegetables and meats. Red and white sauces also make an appearance on pasta dishes such as spaghetti and lasagna. Along with classic Italian eats, Empire Lounge also serves up a selection of Mediterranean items including fried lamb and marinated chicken kebabs.
Top Pizza packs patrons' bellies with selections from a menu packed with New York–style pies strewn with medleys of more than 20 toppings. Like slam-poets in a geometry class, diners can orally attack triangular shapes sprinkled with up to four toppings, ranging from extra cheese to sausage to jalapeños. Mangle 10-slice pies along with garlic rolls inside toothy caverns while pausing to use refreshing soda to hydrate parched esophagi or water a grove of sugar-cane trees.