First look: Cita’s Italian Chophouse

Vongole Oreganata – Steamed middle neck clams on the half shell, topped with sweet lobster meat, scampi butter, breadcrumbs and thyme.

The goods: Coconut Grove joins the steakhouse fray with Cita’s Italian Chophouse. The neighborhood-friendly spot occupies an idyllic building on Commodore Plaza across the street from New Orleans-themed Christabelle’s Quarter. The slim dining room is outfitted in warm dark woods, white leather banquettes and a cozy wine corner perfect for family dinners. The intimate bar features a large flatscreen TV where you’ll usually catch one of the Three Tenors belting arias to set the mangia mood. While the inside is attractive, the real draw is the outdoor patio – lush foliage including orchids, palms and snaking vines decorate the wood-fenced space, creating the ideal date spot. Large fans provide adequate air circulation, so dining al fresco (even in the dead of summer) is a viable option.

The grub: Straightforward steakhouse fare with Italian flourishes. The menu comprises pastas, fish and prime cuts of beef from an 8 oz. filet to a 48 oz. Porterhouse for two. Prices are in keeping with the upscale clientèle; starters range from $11-$18, pastas in the $20 range and fish and steaks from $24-$72. You’ll be tempted to fill up on the complimentary bread — a puffy parmesan-dusted brioche — but save room for the burrata mozzarella salad, a creamy orb of cheese flanked by tangy tomato slices and fresh basil. A trio of fish carpaccio includes smoked salmon, tuna and swordfish offset by an orange emulsion sauce. Steaks are cooked to order, and inventive pasta dishes include gnocchetti – mini-ricotta dumplings tossed with shrimp, asparagus and cherry tomatoes and the linguini tossed with lobster meat, shallots, cherry tomatoes, white wine and fresh thyme and basil. Fish selections like a hefty hunk of seared tuna and a pan-seared domestic red snapper filet with capers, green and black olives in a San Marzano sauce round out the rustic offerings.

Pastry chef Antonio Bachour (formerly of Nobu) revamps the typical Italian restaurant offerings with a deconstructed tiramisu served in a stemless martini glass and redolent of espresso-soaked lady finger, thick mascarpone cream and a flurry of chocolate shavings.

The verdict: Cita’s approachable menu of Italian trattoria staples will satisfy the Grove’s carnivorous diners. You’ll want to linger over an espresso and dessert in the restaurant’s inviting-as-ever rear patio.

Cita’s Italian Chophouse, 3176 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 305-446-2207

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Published: 8/08


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