Barolo Ristorante

 

Hit & miss Italian & free valet parking on Ocean Drive

Barolo Ristorante

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Barolo Ristorante, a fairly recent reincarnation of a dysfunctional 2-year-old spot by the same name, has been trying to reinvent itself one gnocchi at a time. With its sexy dining room, earnest waiters and handmade everything, it certainly gets an A for effort. Just half a block south of Fifth on a quiet strip of Ocean Drive, eager valets are happy to park your car for free. Is this really South Beach? Well, the prices -- $27 for a shrimp risotto, $30 for pounded veal -- won't let you forget where you are.

The food by Lindsay Spalding, a young chef who worked under television terror Gordon Ramsay for nine years, is some of the best-looking in town. From the bountiful bread basket to the Caprese salad, the dishes look ready for the cover of Food & Wine. The quality of ingredients is above par, too, and the small-scale menu is well-composed, with pastas and rice dishes in two sizes to please both American and European patrons. But taste is another matter.

Ambiance: Iridescent tiles, a wall of wines, wood accents and pretty pink orchids on each table lend an elegant touch to the intimate dining room.

What Worked

  • Signature cappellaci di carciofino – a pair of glossy, egg-yellow pasta purses stuffed with a velvety puree of artichoke, ricotta cheese & dried tomatoes and sauced in a sea of oil with capers and bitter baby arugula
  • Colorful, well-composed and competently-cooked sweet pea and prawn risottos with a creamy bite
  • Linguine alla vongole with a generous complement of perky clams, expertly timed noodles and perfectly peppery, chile-flecked seasoning
  • A side dish of off-the cob sweet corn with a fruity burst of buttery sugar and just enough salt
  • Branzino with an earthy harissa dressing
  • Gently priced bottles of wine
  • A colorful & flavorful dessert of blood orange carpaccio

What Didn’t Work

  • Greasy and golden brown gnocchi with an off-putting brown-orange carrot and parsley sauce
  • Uneven & inappropriately friendly waiter service
  • Overcooked squid ink taglietelli with crab and garlic
  • Good lucking, but disappointing Parmigiana di melanzane -- two thick discs of eggplant sandwiching gooey cheese and red sauce – that tasted mostly of oil
  • Monkfish as grisly as an old steak
  • An absence of a printed wine by the glass list

 

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