3.5 stars for "divine" Italian at Toscana Divino in Brickell

Chef Julian Baker samples his Taglierini ai Frutti di Mare at Toscana Divino.CARL JUSTE/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The most popular “ethnic” cuisine in the United States, hands down, is Italian. Something about the simple comfort food warms the souls of Americans from every background. Or maybe it’s just a pasta thing. Every city ought to be lucky enough to have an Italian restaurant as solid as Toscana Divino, and the fact that it’s in one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods in the walkable Mary Brickell Village makes it an even greater find. The chic eatery satisfies a need for authentic Northern Italian fare from exceptional antipasti and steak Florentine to more inspired modern creations. The executive chef is Julian Baker, whose training in Florence is evident in every dish.

Ambience: The setting is gorgeous inside and out. The interior looks like a luxury shop with handbags and sculptures for sale (sans price tags) in handsome built-in shelves and low lighting that makes everything (and everyone) glow. Tables, too, are sexy, with simple white porcelain plates and flatware as sleek as a pair of Ferragamos. Outside, broad umbrellas shade shiny black tables with comfy black wicker chairs, all set with crisp linen napkins. You could easily be at an outdoor café on the shores of the Arno.

What Worked

  • Moist and chewy bread with a crust as brittle as fall leaves
  • A hearty, stand-your-spoon-in-it ribolitta t
  • Chianti-braised veal cheeks with hazelnut gremolata
  • Rich pappardelle with a fennel sausage ragu
  • Fantastic maccheroni with shreds of long-cooked beef, a chewy-tender bite and restrained saucing
  • Vegetable “carbonara” – a lovely tangle of fettuccine with finely diced red chard, toothpick-thin green beans & a light, Alfredo-style sauce
  • A superior, rosy in the middle loin of swordfish gently poached in olive oil
  • A tomatoey bean stew (fagioli all’uccelletto) made of tiny cannellinis
  • Bright-as-sunlight salads
  • Arugula tossed with paper-thin Parmesan and thinly sliced fresh baby artichokes
  • Foglie e verdure – a crunchy raw vegetable salad of leaves and greens
  • Expertly carved meats and cheeses
  • An extensive and fairly priced wine list stocked with Italian wines  appropriately chilled & served in glasses as pretty as the place itself
  • Exceedingly polite managers
  • A cylinder of almond and honey semi-freddo dotted with a micro-bouquet of oregano then smeared with yogurt and caramel sauce

What Didn’t Work

  • Bumbling waiters who cleared dishes before we were done and kept pouring $8 bottles of water without asking
  • A mandatory 18 percent service charge



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