2 stars for Italian at Miami's Cipriani Downtown

From its early days as a cozy Venetian ristorante, the original Harry’s Bar that Giuseppe Cipriani opened in 1931 was a magnet for celebrity expats like Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote. In the decades since, the Ciprianis have spun their magic around the globe with outposts in jet-set locales including London, Monte Carlo, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles. In May, fourth-generation Cipriani brothers Ignazio and Maggio opened their 20th location at the appropriately named Icon Brickell.

Ambience: The bayside setting is one of the most stunning in Miami, with sunlight flooding the high-ceilinged room in the day and Murano glass chandeliers providing a sparkling glow at night. Crisp white linen tablecloths and napkins edged in royal blue play off the vintage ocean liner motif with porthole windows of stainless steel set into shiny, walnut walls. The patrons, too, shimmer with tanned skin and expensive watches. Cushy white leather banquettes and tables so close you can clink glasses with your neighbors lend a convivial feel. This is indeed the place to be seen.

What Worked

  • Taglionlini — tender, hand-hewn threads of pasta with tiny cubes of ham and buttery béchamel sauce baked until the top crisps
  • A gorgeous salad of mashed avocado and see-through sheets of raw artichoke crowned with crystalline panes of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Perfectly shaved, red-as-roses beef carpaccio drizzled with a decadent, mustardy mayonnaise sauce
  • Deliciously bitey baby broccoli di rabe
  • Old-school and very-sweet desserts
  • Signature vanilla merengue cake that is a simple pleasure with an espresso
  • A carefully crafted wine list that includes trophy bottles and fine Italian varietals at prices that are only shocking if you are not used to the game


What Didn’t Work

  • Food and service that fluctuate as dramatically as the Venetian tides
  • Skin-on branzino with perfect grill marks, but not a hint of flavor
  • A fritto misto that was more fritto than misto (three-fourths of the dish were made up of calamari ringlets) served tepid with pedestrian marinara
  • A beautiful little ramekin of eggplant parmesan with an unfortunate bitter twinge