Sapore di Mare serves a slice of Italy in Coconut Grove

Take one of the few tables in Sapore di Mare, Italian for “taste of the sea,” and be swept away to a simple seafood eatery on the Amalfi Coast with the freshest fish flown in from Spain and Portugal. The place is named for a romantic song of the same name by Gino Paoli, about when summer ends you can still taste the sea on your skin.

Open since December, the nautically themed spot is cozy, done in white with glass balls in nets and thick-knotted ropes and dangling bare light bulbs. There are ships’ steering wheels, starfish and anchors tacked to the walls. While there is a printed menu, smart diners will allow staff to come to their table and tell them what the specials are or what seafood is fresh and in season. You should listen and let them order for you.

Owner Giorgia Calabrese and her husband, Matteo Paderno, met at Disney in Orlando, where she was a server and he was a busboy in the international program. They married, and in 2009 they moved to Miami, where they ran a pizzeria and then opened NiDo Caffe in Miami’s MiMo district, selling it last year. 

Calabrese is an interior designer and did the decor at Sapore. A visiting chef who used to work at a Hilton in Rome dined at Sapore and liked the food and atmosphere so much, he stuck around: Valter Mancini is now Sapore’s executive chef. He has become part of the Sapore family; Paderno’s sister, Veronica, waits tables. 

Antipasti include cheese and charcuterie platters; burrata with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers; layers of thin-sliced zucchini stacked with cow’s-milk cheese and marinara sauce; and polipetti alla Luciana: whole steamed baby octopus in thick tomato sauce with capers and black olives served with chunks of toasted rustic bread for sopping up the sauce. 

From the crudi, there is wild salmon carpaccio with lemon, fennel and orange slices, and branzino carpaccio made with Mediterranean sea bass from Spain — only the fillets are used, pounded paper-thin and served atop sliced frozen green apples drizzled in lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkled with Persian blue salt or Himalayan pink salt. 

There’s also langoustine from Chile, served raw in the half shell, best dipped in a mix of olive oil and lemon juice and good with a pinch of Danish oak- and elm-smoked salt. 

Pastas are made from scratch. Recent specials were tagliolini (flat strands enriched with egg) mixed vigorously in the hollowed wheel of Pecorino cheese with the starchy water it was boiled in until creamy, specked with black pepper, and tagliolini with parsley and grated golden bottarga (cured mullet roe). 

From the main menu, seafood spaghetti is splashed with white wine, agnolotti is stuffed with lobster and burrata, and half-moon-shaped mezzaluna are filled with butternut squash sautéed in butter with sage. You can make a meal of pasta and crudi or look toward a whole salt-baked branzino, grilled octopus on sweet green pea purée, or filet mignon with porcini mushrooms. 

For dessert, get limoncello cake layered with mascarpone. Live la dolce vita.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer. 

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