First look: Joey’s Italian Café

Joey’s thin crusted pizza with arugula.

The goods: If beefy steakhouses were Miami’s restaurant trend of ’08, then allow us to herald what we believe to be a new wave: the upscale pizza bar. There are plenty on the way, and the harbinger of this casual-yet-gourmet genre is Joey’s Italian Café in Wynwood.

Owners Joey and Thea Goldman tempt you into uncharted territory restaurant-wise with this hip eatery. During the day the restaurant’s sidewalk patio is an opportune lunch spot for local artists and gallerists secluded from the neighborhood grit by lemon trees and fragrant rosemary, basil and thyme from the kitchen’s herb garden. At night, the streets are noticeably quieter (be sure to take advantage of the free valet) but the restaurant oozes candlelit charm. A small marble bar flanks the open kitchen where chef Ivo Mazzon churns out pizzas and focaccias from a massive oven. In keeping with the neighborhood’s aesthetic, the minimalist dining room features a striking black and white mosaic tiled wall and polished concrete floors.

The grub: Italian classics with an emphasis on dishes from the Veneto region. Prices are refreshingly low; most salads and pastas can be ordered as half portions for $3-$8. Full portions of pastas are $11-$14, pizzas start at $8 and mains rarely climb above $16.

A large part of Joey’s appeal is its improvisational specials, a compendium of dishes that change twice daily and can include gems like carbonara pizza and beef stew with polenta. Start off with a radicchio and baccala salad composed of lightly-dressed lettuce, grapes and grilled cod fish. Move on to a few half portions of pasta like the ricotta and spinach ravioli in a salmon cream sauce or the tortelloni with speck and mushrooms. Mains include hearty renditions of farmhouse fare like oven roasted Cornish hen with potatoes, lamb chops with polenta and cod with eggplant and cherry tomatoes. Save room for the thin-crust pizzas, like the dolce e piccante, a bracing mix of figs, gorgonzola, honey and hot pepper or the Joey with tuna, spicy salami, capers and spinach.

Rare is the place that can satisfy both wine and pizza snobs while delighting those who are obsessed with neither, but Joey’s pulls it off with a reasonably-priced wine list that should keep most wine-purists occupied.

The verdict: There’s reason to venture to Wynwood other than gallery-hopping, now that Joey’s has opened offering reasonably-priced Italian food in a stylish setting.

Joey’s Italian Café, 2506 NW 2nd Ave, 305-438-0488. Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dinner Monday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Published: 12/08

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