Music was turned up just a little louder to cover the din of drilling and hammering as the final touches were put on the massive new Italian food hall in Brickell City Centre, La Centrale.
This latest food hall, a year in the making, is not the first to open in the expansive, high-end mall in Brickell. It’s not the first Italian one, either, as Casa Tua Cucina, a self-serve version of the pricey South Beach restaurant, earned a three-star (Good) Miami Herald review last month.
La Centrale (pronounced Chen-TRAH-leh) is, however, by far the largest, a three-story, 40,000 square-foot monument that promises to take diners on a culinary tour of Italy. It will open to the public Feb. 16. But the project’s managers gave media a behind-the-scenes tour of the 99.9 percent complete food hall that makes up the northern wing of the mall.
Each floor is dedicated to a different dining experience, highlighting a separate part of Italy.
“What we wanted to bring to Miami was a 100 percent Italian experience,” managing partner Matthias Kiehm said. “Every one of our stations have a story.”
First Floor: Mercato
The first floor is a marketplace geared toward grab-and-go.
Quick service stations with Italian names quickly sum up what’s for sale (assuming you speak Italian). A glance at the menu lets you know what’s what. There are stations dedicated to coffee and pastries, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, charcuterie and cheeses and ready-to-go hot meals.
Picture an Italian Palacio de los Jugos, where you pay for items at separate stations.
The first floor also features two casual restaurants with servers, an all-day café that features pastries and cakes and a rustic pizza and pasta sit-down restaurant.
Like what you had to eat? You can check off the items on a “grocery list,” and the server will have those items packed and waiting for you when you pay your bill.
Want a quick experience? Download the La Centrale app (available for Apple’s iOS now and soon in the Google Play store). You can order and pay for your items beforehand and pick them up at the individual stations.
Mercato is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Caffé is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Pizza E Pasta, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday.
Second Floor: Restaurants
La Centrale’s second floor features three major sit-down restaurant for a more formal experience. Between them is an octagonal bar that’s perfect for happy hour.
Carne is a steakhouse inspired by Italy’s Chianti region, with a butcher shop that dry ages steaks up to 48 days and cooks over a wood-fire grill. Whether it’s a massive $16 hamburger with meat ground in-house or a $38 aged chop, it’s meant to be a meat lover’s paradise.
Pesce, a massive 80-seat restaurant with windows overlooking South Miami Avenue, focuses on seafood and is meant to evoke the seaside restaurants along the Italian Riviera. Fresh branzino will be flown in from Italy regularly. And the fresh seafood can also be wrapped up to take home with the grocery list, should you want to make your own at home.
Stagionale will feature a seasonal, plant-based menu with vegetarian and vegan options. It will offer seasonal truffles, risottos and mozzarella hand-pulled at the restaurant.
Tucked in a corner is the only third-party vendor in La Centrale, a chocolate shop by Italy’s Venchi, which will serve 16 kinds of gelatos and 80 varieties of imported chocolates. There are also a pair of chocolate fountains by the window.
Hours: Restaurants are open noon to 11 p.m. The bar is open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday.
Third Floor: Enoteca
The top floor is all about wine.
Central to La Centrale’s Enoteca is a wine bar, where the staff will lead tastings (free every week) of the wines of Italy. You can taste your way through 30 wines throughout the separate regions, particularly with wine flights and a $20 fixed price lunch menu.
The wine shop features more than 450 different labels and 4,000 bottles of wine for sale. About 80 percent of the wines will be Italian and feature wine from smaller, artisanal wineries that are otherwise hard to find South Florida.
The top floor also will house a private wine “cellar” (though on the third floor they joke it’s more of attic) where groups of 10-50 can have daily, communal, fixed-price lunches and dinners. It’s like having a meal in a private wine cellar.
La Cucina is the final tie-in, a demo kitchen that will host classes to teach Italian cooking and preparations, host visiting chefs for collaborations and for private parties.
Hours: The wine bars is open noon to 10 p.m. The wine shop is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.