Scenic alfresco dining, leisurely pizza and wallet-friendly prices in the Design District.
169 NE 39 St, Miami
The goods: The old Brosia space in the Design District is reborn as Mai Tardi (“never late” in Italian), a casual Italian spot from the owners of Lincoln Road’s Spris and Tiramesu. Indoors the compact dining room is now outfitted with a handsome pizza oven and marble pizza bar, perfect for quick lunches. Another epicurean touch is the antique meat slicer in the open kitchen, smoothly slicing cured meats for platters of charcuterie. An added bonus for budget diners: the daily “Beat the Clock” special where from 5-7pm the price you pay depends on the time you place your order (meaning order at 5:30pm and your entrée is $5.30). Choices include three pizzas and two pastas.
Ambiance: The new owners kept much of what worked about the space – the charming outdoor patio with its hundred year-old oak trees, mod furniture and dazzling mosaic-tiled walls.
The grub: Northern Italian classics mixed with modern Italian staples. Pizza is the focus here, with over twenty varieties on hand, including eight “pizza blanco” options without tomato sauce. Prices are designed to encourage lingering over a glass of wine late into the evening. A short tapas list has dishes for about $6 and pizzas range $9-$15. Larger mains average about $20.
Start off with an order of fried artichokes accompanied by lemon mint aioli and grappa-cured salmon served with baguette slices that have been rubbed with grapefruit spread. When the weather gets cooler you’ll want to tuck into the “capriole al ginepro,” made with overnight-cooked venison stew spiked with wine and served over polenta. Venison shows up again in the homemade venison ravioli bathed in a gorgonzola sauce.
Pizzas are thin-crusted and light – one pie and a salad can feed two. The Siciliana is a briny mix of plump kalamata olives, anchovies and capers while the “Tonno e carciofi” is topped with pepper-crusted seared tuna, artichokes and arugula. In terms of pastas, the gnocchi is made in-house and served with porcini mushroom sauce and the seafood lasagna is brimming with shrimps, scallops, squid, crab and a lobster dill sauce. Wines are grouped by price point, meaning there are half a dozen $20 wines, another group of $30 wines and so on, leaving those with iPhones the inevitable task of assessing which wines are the real bargains on the list.
Verdict: One of Miami’s most scenic courtyards is reborn as a leisurely pizza spot with wallet-friendly food and drink prices.
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