Miami Beach certainly isn’t desperate for another pricey Italian restaurant, but I Corsini, at the corner of Sixth and Washington, is a magical spot whose outdoor dining room is a local treasure worth supporting. The place to be is the garden beneath towering palms studded with tiny white impatiens and gentle lights that make everyone look good.
What worked: A fantastic zuppa di pesce stocked with octopus, eraser-sized clams, tender black mussels, scallops and white fish and served with a toasty plank of brittle crostini, is a delicious way to spend an evening beneath the stars.
- A hearty tortellini in a thick parmigiana sauce is served in a lacy basket of melted cheese that is as indulgent as the creamy dish.
- Also good is a silky tagliolini with briny sea urchin and a pumpkin-stuffed tortelloni in a brown butter sauce dotted with chopped pistachios.
- Even the dry pastas are a cut above – perfectly al dente, a little heavy on the sauce.
- A tasty skirt steak for just $18 was simple and tasty enough to satisfy.
- A rough-cut panzanella with red onion, cubes of day-old Tuscan bread and sweet, juicy hunks of tomato with lots of torn basil is perfection.
What didn’t work: Though most of the offerings are alluring, many would be more appropriate for a ski lodge in the Apennines. Ribollita (thick bread soup), farro with beans, crepes stuffed with Gorgonzola and asparagus, and pappardelle sauced with hearty wild boar ragu are tough sells in a subtropical, al fresco dining room.
- A deconstructed beef tartare, with the component onion, egg, mustard et al., in tiny bowls disappointed the classicists at the table but seemed at least to make an effort at creativity.
- Meat dishes, including a $42 bone-in rib-eye seared to a chewy, angry black, did not impress.
- A Tuscan salad of fennel, celery heart and oranges and another of tuna with cranberry beans had brown-edged greens and too much dressing.
Desserts: Panna cotta with a glowing red sauce of raspberry purée, lemon ricotta cheese soufflé, spicy pepper chocolate mousse, and wine-soaked zuppa inglese are pure Italian decadence. A simple but friendly construction of Nutella spread on yellow cake has the charm of a birthday cake.
I Corsini has yet to find an audience and has a well-meaning but deficient wait staff, but it remains a rough-cut gem in need of polishing.
I Corsini, 560 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-2323; 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Prices: Antipasti $11-$18, pastas $15-$18, salads $9-$12, secondi $18-$59 (a 48-ounce, porterhouse for $84 is meant to be shared), sides $6-$7, desserts $7-$8.
FYI: Full bar; corkage $25. Metered street parking, $5 valet. Complimentary buffet with the purchase of drinks 7-11 p.m. Sunday; prix-fixe Monday dinner menu $40 with wine. AX, DN, MC, VS.