There’s a new Italian restaurant in downtown’s One Miami building boasting a veteran chef who worked at a New York Italian hot spot. The bay views are sweeping, the white tablecloths are crisp and a table in the entryway is laden with pastas, tomatoes and other Italian products. Top it off with a pricey menu, and it starts to sound awfully familiar.
It’s Scalina, and it follows essentially the same formula used by the team next door at Il Gabbiano, only this time the players include Jorge Perez, chairman of the Related Group, and veteran Italian restaurateur Tom Billante (Bella Luna, Rosalia, Villagio, Carpaccio). The chef is Enrico Geraldo, who trained in Bergamo before landing a top spot in the kitchen of Scalinettella, a Manhattan sensation for two decades.
Ambience: Named for the grand staircase leading to the dining room, Scalina has a luxe feel much like its predecessor, Prime Blue, and a menu that borders on cliché with dishes like shrimp scampi, veal piccata, Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo and tiramisu.
Lunch and dinner two weeks apart might as well have been at two different restaurants. At lunch, our waiter was so service-focused I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him in a backbend, while our dinner server’s biggest concern seemed to be how his hair looked in the reflection of the floor-to-ceiling windows. (Had he looked a little lower, he would have noticed that the zipper of his wrinkled black pants was at half-mast.) He neglected to give us the Miami Spice dinner menu and rolled his eyes when we requested it.
- A nicely lemony, super-crisp Caesar salad
- A competent beef carpaccio over perky baby arugula and sheaves of Parmesan
- A tasty paglia e fieno, “straw and hay,” named for its yellow and green color
- A thin steak of swordfish with a simple cherry tomato and onion sauce and fresh arugula
- Tender slices of veal in the veal pizzaiola well served by peppers, onions and tangy tomatoes
- A satisfying slice of classic tiramisu with nicely married infusion coffee and cocoa
- A complimentary digestif of frosty limoncello, a sweet-tart finish to a dining experience that could be described the same way
What Didn’t Work
- A whole branzino with eyes as cloudy as the cracked Lucite tray on which it lay
- Oily slips of fried zucchini dotted with red pepper flakes
- Rosemary flatbread that had succumbed to the September humidity
- Fishy-smelling, shriveled mussels that poked through chunks of tomato
- Spaghetti pomodoro cooked al dente, but nearly drowned in sauce
- Two seafood dishes featuring overpowering Gorgonzola
- Pollo Enrico, a chef’s special combining knuckles of chicken on the bone with nubs of spicy sausage in a chunky, greasy tomato sauce
- Markups on the international wine list that average a high four times retail and range to an egregious nine-plus times in the case of a 2005 Sterling Three Palms Merlot (can be ordered online for $20, sells for $192 here)
- A fridge-weary flan-like cheesecake was fridge-weary