By Linda Bladholm
Massimiliano Guerri and Grace Messick are two Florentines who met in Miami 14 years ago and became best friends are now partners in a 2-month-old Miami Beach bakery café, a shoe-box-size space called Mattarello. The word is Italian for rolling pin, but it can also mean "a little bit crazy," and that’s how things have been so far, with a lunch rush and another around 6 p.m. for takeout. There is no set menu. The fare could be braised oxtails or rosemary-roasted chicken with various sides, salads, breads, pastries, tarts and cookies.
The place is also an Italian deli selling such items as proscuitto, pecorino cheese with bits of truffle, honey, olive oil and dried heirloom beans and tiny pink chickpeas sent by relatives in Tuscany who produce them. Massimiliano, known as Mass, arrives at 4 a.m. to bake the focaccia bread for sandwiches. (There’s sourdough, whole grain, ciabatta and baguettes, too.) He also bakes Italian-style pizza — big rectangles of spongy-crisp dough spread with homemade tomato sauce and just a little mozzarella.
Eating here feels and tastes like being in Italy — the crowds, the language, the laughter and most of all the fresh food, with nothing over $10. Beat the heat with a panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad. Day-old bread is soaked in ice water, squeezed and mixed with sliced onions, cucumbers, olive oil and basil. A salad of cannellini beans with premium canned tuna, garlic, onions and olives is another cool choice, as is rare roast-beef carpaccio dressed in lemon and olive oil and topped with shards of Parmesan.
On Wednesdays, the hot plate is braised lamb shank. On Fridays it’s baccala alla Livornese, a Tuscan salt-cod specialty sauced in tomato, garlic and parsley. Folks flock on Sundays for crackle-skinned porchetta (roast pork). Side dishes might include zucchini fritters — wisps of the squash encased in a light, puffy
batter. End with torta di risso (rice and pastry cream tart) or a cheese platter drizzled in honey.
If you’re "a little bit crazy" about fresh, homey, affordable Italian fare, this is the place for you.
Mattarello, 1450 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 786-547-9590; 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (closing 10 p.m. during the season); entrée with two sides $7-$9, salads $6-$8, sandwiches $8, breads and pastries $2-$3
FYI: Catering available.
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