The goods: The latest contender to jump into the competitive dining scene in Coral Gables is Il Grissino, a glossy jewel-toned spot on Giralda Ave. Part gourmet pizza bar, part smartly casual Italian bistro, the 70-seater works as a quiet date spot and as a dinner destination for families with small children looking for something a little more sophisticated than a chain restaurant. The restaurant recently launched an Executive Lunch menu with a choice of main course and dessert for $13 and a weekday happy hour Monday through Friday from 5-7pm offering beer and wine specials and complimentary snacks like house-cured olives, salami and fresh bocconcini (little mozzarella balls).
Ambiance: The dining room is a handsome mix of white leather chairs, peach-colored walls and charcoal-stained wood floors. A regal copper wood-burning oven greets you as you walk in and a rust-colored marble bar is a relaxed spot for cocktails and pizzas.
The grub: Regional Italian cooking. The food is simple and focused on allowing the well-sourced ingredients speak for themselves. Prices are neighborhood-friendly with starters $8-$14, pastas $13-$16.50, pizzas $11.25-$14.50 and mains like steak and seafood in the mid-$20’s.
It’s tough not to polish off basket after basket of the complimentary home made breadsticks and rustic bread, flecked with sea salt and providing a satisfying carby crunch. A starter of tuna tartar, while a generous portion of diced fish, could have used more of the advertised orange vinaigrette and a few wonton chips for scooping and textural contrast. Pizzas here are light enough to serve as appetizers for two to three people and come with a chewy crust and toppings ranging from Italian sausage to brie cheese. Pastas include a comforting bowl of homemade tortelli stuffed with eggplant and topped with a zesty tomato and kalamata olive sauce. Desserts cover the usual range of Italian offerings – the tiramisu and a berry-strewn panna cotta providing not-too sweet caps to the belly-filling meal.
Verdict: Honest, accessible Italian food in a comfortable and stylish setting.