R House is a restaurant — and an art gallery — in Wynwood

While many restaurants are decorated with art, rarely is the art of “gallery quality.” R House, a new restaurant in Wynwood, hopes to change that by operating a full art gallery in its dining space.

Rocco Carulli, the chef of R House, owned a restaurant in Provincetown, a summer resort town along in Cape Cod, Mass. He  operated the restaurant for 13 summer seasons and spent winters in Miami Beach, where he worked as a chef at the now-defunct Wish restaurant at The Hotel.

When he began plans to open his own restaurant, he was attracted to idea of opening a restaurant in Wynwood because it reminded him of Provincetown’s artistic community, but grown up.

“I feel like it has the most soul of any of the communities in Miami,” said Carulli, who opened R House in early February.

Carulli says his Italian roots inspired his love for cooking. Both of his parents are from Italy and his father was a butcher. Growing up, his family enjoyed food and cooking, often throwing large dinners and barbecues. Consequently, he was often in the kitchen helping with the cooking and baking treats like cupcakes.

Although he was surrounded by Italian food in his youth, Carulli’s cooking is more eclectic with dishes inspired by cuisines from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. He prefers to think of his dishes as lighter takes on comfort food. Reinforcing that idea is the decision to make nearly all of the entrees available as half-entrees, which is ideal for sharing.

Among the light comfort choices are entrees the such as his Brazilian seafood moqueca, a stew made with cobia, shrimp and scallops, and the Sweet Pea Falafel, a new take on the traditional Middle Eastern dish that substitutes chickpeas for sweet peas. For something on the richer side, you can try the Braised Short Rib with a molasses reduction or the frilled skirt steak with a sweet chili glaze.

What’s most unique about art house is how it functions is its art gallery component. The idea surfaced when Carulli approached Tom Shirk, curator of White Porch Gallery. While Carulli originally approach him as an investor, Shirk thought he could bring his gallery to the Wynwood area, which he was fond of.

The restaurant is now showcasing the works of Brixy, a German artist whose abstract-expressionist style paintings feature thick, almost sculpted ribbons of paint. Shirk chose the artist because he wanted to reflect the graphic feel of the neighborhood.

“I wanted to choose an artist for the debut of R House and the gallery that was very vibrant, colorful and someone who bring those colors you see on the street inside.”

While Brixy is currently the only artist on display, the gallery hopes to also feature local and national artists.

In addition to the art programming, the restaurant hopes to provide attract patrons with DJ sets and performances by local talent on late nights. On Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant will be open as late as 3 am, a rarity for fine-dining restaurants. The only comparable restaurant that opens as late is Gigi’s, an Asian fusion restaurant in the neighboring Midtown area.

While Wynwood has yet to turn itself into a dining destination, some (like Carulli) see an opportunity to create and experiment with dining possibilities in the neighborhood, said Patrick Walsh, interim director of the Wynwood Arts District Association.

“As the food culture develops in Miami, more restaurateurs are finding a certain freedom and spirit in Wynwood that compliments their visions of a unique dining experience.”