“Crazy’ has great view, low prices

 

Fans of the wonderfully quirky downtown Dolores But You can Call me Lolita will find it easy to fall for a similar concept from the same owners in the space that briefly housed the avant-garde L...

By Victoria Pesce Elliott

Fans of the wonderfully quirky downtown Dolores But You can Call me Lolita will find it easy to fall for a similar concept from the same owners in the space that briefly housed the avant-garde La Broche.

Crazy About You in The Mark Condo overlooking Biscayne Bay is even prettier than her big sister. The rambling space is at once glossy and rustic, with glass walls, floor-to-ceiling wine racks, chocolate-colored floors and sexy drum lighting. It retains some of its original flair with sumptuous white leatherette chairs and, of course, the view. But there is lots more to love about this new girl in town than the killer location. The menu, like Dolores’, includes a complimentary appetizer with every entree. And with main courses priced no higher than $19.75 for items like Thai churrascco or pork ossobuco, it’s easy to keep the tab down. With decades of experience both here and in Madrid, partners Carlos Galan and Joaquin Chamizo know a thing or two about running restaurants. They seem to have figured out that the Miami formula for success involves a gorgeous setting, low prices, big portions, a casual setting, friendly staff, good-enough food and a sense of humor.

Crazy’s ever-so-gently fusioned menu ere is uncomplicated if a bit unfocused. The general theme seems to be Italian with Caribbean and Asian accents. I can live without guacamole with my mozzarella as in the Mexican Caprese salad, with but there are plenty of better combos. There are a dozen bar-snacky appetizers, from empanadas to spring rolls, plus nice, fresh salads including a hefty Caesar to go with the well-handled fried fare. Best among the starters we sampled was a flavorful lentil soup served in stainless-steel measuring cups. Though I’d swear the legumes came from a can, the soup had a nice smoky flavor with tidbits of bacon and chunks of fresh tomato. Crispy, golden cod empanadas and creamy ham croquettes, a favorite from Lolita, are also worth trying.

Tops among the main courses has to be the carb-less bolognese made with “noodles” of lovely blanched zucchini sauced with a cheesy ground beef. An otherwise tasty broiled cod served with a lovely tomato confit and gently seared broccolini could do without the melted streaks of cheese. A calamari dish with sliced avocado, tomato and red onion is good, too, though in general it is best to stick with the less ambitious dishes.

A fine Key West fried dolphin mini-sandwich comes with a fishy tuna version and a dab of commercial cole slaw, but is saved by the hot cone of toothpick-thin fries. The only flat-out failure we tried were insipid eggplant cylinders dotted with mozzarella and dabbed with pesto and a watery marinara.

An easy-to-cozy-up-to wine list split about evenly between the Old and New Worlds has some fine Spanish and Italian offerings, though markups can be as high as 3 1/2 times retail. Budget-conscious imbibers can choose the house wine, a drinkable Sonoma BV Century for only $4 a glass or $13 a bottle.

Cute young servers couldn’t be nicer, though few are thoroughly fluent in English. Plus, they need to lighten up and learn how to give diners some space. One waitress stationed herself about five inches behind my chair throughout the meal, making it tough to have a heart-to-heart with a girlfriend.

For just a few bucks, you can have dessert fun with Message in a Bottle, a fudgy brownie and a basket of additions — chocolate sauce, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, cocoa — with which to customize it. Write a note on the attached slip of paper, put it in the bottle and you’re entered in a monthly drawing for a free dinner. A night on the town for less than the cost of an entree at some South Beach eateries makes it easy to fall head over heels at this recession-busting senorita.

Victoria Pesce Elliott reviews Miami-Dade restaurants. E-mail her at velliott@MiamiHerald.com. Follow her on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE and on her Facebook fan page.

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