By Sara Liss
The goods: Fratelli Lyon is chef Ken Lyon’s foray into family dining. The local chef helms the lauded Lyon and Lyon catering company and created the much-loved Lyon Freres et Compagnie on Lincoln Road in the ’90s. Now he’s back with a stylish dining room and sophisticated approach to ingredient-glorifying food. Located in the Design District’s trendy Driade furniture store, all the tableware is sourced from the store but this is no shopper’s cafeteria. The restaurant makes good use of its Italian showroom environs, mixing the sleek, minimalist fixtures with warm lighting and an unstuffy atmosphere. Soaring ceilings, orange wire placemats, stainless steel shelves stocked with wines and charcuterie, bistro stools and a marble bar give the space an urban vibe.
The restaurant has aligned itself with the slow food movement, of which there is a chapter in Miami, emphasizing local food traditions and ecologically sound farming practices. To that effect the chef has sourced ingredients from small purveyors in Italy as well at home; his mozzarella and ricotta are courtesy of Puglia-born, Pompano-based cheesemaker Vito Volpe, whose homemade cow’s milk cheeses are sellouts at the weekly Upper East Side farmer’s market.
The grub: Clean, simple Italian fare. With a menu manifesto that name-drops locavore pioneers Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini, the restaurant declares its commitment to sourcing sustainably farmed ingredients. Ten selections of anitpasti, eight varieties of salumi (including a pistachio-studded bologna), a selection of cheeses that includes a "la tur" triple-milk cheese sourced from Piedmontese farmers, salads, crostini, pastas and traditional mains comprise the menu. Prices encourage the ordering of small plates and sharing; anitpasti selections are $4-$15, pizzas $10-$15, pastas and mains $10-$31.
Platters of cured meats, cheeses and marinated vegetables provide ample starters, while a formidable list of pastas like the house made ravioli stuffed with herbed ricotta and the fresh pea risotto fulfill rustic Italian cravings. Unique dishes include the filet of sole, lightly breaded and doused with a marinade of homemade cured lemons, oregano, vinegar and garlic topped with pickled onions and pine nuts. In keeping with slow food-oriented farmhouse fare, the restaurant offers signature dishes each night of the week, like a young chicken "hunter style" casserole for two on Mondays or the barolo braised beef and polenta Friday nights. Sides like the grilled eggplant layered with ricotta and tomato sauce and the asparagus gratin with pancetta and Parmesan round out the bucolic feast.
This being an enoteca, there are ample quaffs of Italian wines with about 60 selections to choose from, ranging from pricey Barolos to proletariat-priced prosecos. Desserts like the affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with an espresso shot, and the chocolate budino dressed with mascarpone sauce offer refreshing respite from the tiramesu and cheesecake tyranny of Italian dessert options.
The verdict: Fratelli Lyon marries the worlds of high design and artful cooking. The restaurant’s farm-to-table philosophy will please The Omnivore’s Dilemma-toting gastronomes but is also accessible to the uninitiated.
Fratelli Lyon, 4141 NE 2nd Ave.; 305-572-2901
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