By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
The décor is industrial chic. Contemporary furniture, plates, flatware, and accessories are compliments of the Driade furniture showroom in which Fratelli is located. Chairs are of varying styles, some more comfortable than others (the sharply squared, hard plastic chairs are more welcoming than they look). But on our first visit, we were seated in the lobby section, a rather cold makeshift space not nearly as intimate as the interior. When I cooked at the Russian Tea Room years ago, such socially undesirable seating was referred to as Siberia; here, I suppose, it would be Sardinia.
Not everything is flawless. Take the uniforms: sloppy gray cotton polo shirts over blue jeans of varying styles and degrees of wear — especially frumpy-looking in the context of such sleek surroundings. And on our first trip, we suffered through an incompetent waiter, who described the food inaccurately and barely made it to our table after the ordering was done. Backup was scant too; the hostess had to come by to clear plates. The waiter also neglected to tell us about a bistecca special for two, which we discovered when customers seated adjacent to us ordered one. "Damn, that looks good!" I said, envy dripping from my voice like blood from the beef. But other waiters appeared to be on the ball that night, and subsequent visits brought solidly professional service.
No tiramisu? No ricotta cheesecake? No key lime pie or molten chocolate cake? What sort of Italian restaurant is this? One that charges "market price" for fruit tart of the day, something I've not seen before. It turns out the version crafted from nectarines was $10; the price of nectarines is more volatile these days than I had suspected. It was a 10-spot well spent; the circle of pastry dough was thinly layered with vanilla pastry cream and adorned with thin slices of the fruit — plus a couple of plump raspberries. For a mere $6, you can also get a quartet of cigar-size cannolis, distinguishable from others around town not only because of an inclusion of raisins and chocolate, but also because of the freshly baked crusty cylinders rather than the premade stuff that after sitting in kitchens for months has all the appeal of old, fried egg-roll skins.
4141 NE Second Ave.
Miami, FL 33137
Region: Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
The only problem with dining at a restaurant as gratifying as Fratelli Lyon is that afterward you are left with the bitter feeling that other places have been ripping you off. Perhaps if the proprietors of said establishments, in between whining about hard economic times, would pay Fratelli a visit and see people lining up to get in on a Monday night, they might gain incentive to offer honest cuisine at a good value as well. This probably won't happen, but at least Lyon has joined our shortlist of restaurateurs with integrity. Plus, we'll always have Italy.