Best of Miami®

Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Personal Best

CASA TUA 1700 James Avenue Miami Beach 305-673-1010

In the few months it's been operating, Casa Tua in Miami Beach has cultivated a mystique that has made a weekend dinner reservation the most sought-after ticket in town. The understated refinement of its home (a former private residence) and the sophisticated cuisine created by executive chef Sergio Sigala have combined to form a truly elegant dining experience. As New Times critic Lee Klein put it: "Diners feel as though they're in the home of a good friend -- a very wealthy friend with exquisite taste, that is." Sigala, a 34-year-old native of Brescia, Italy, has enjoyed a richly peripatetic career that began in Italy then skipped to England, Switzerland, Bahrain, Canada, France, back to Italy, and finally to Miami Beach. When he's not in the kitchen at Casa Tua, he's likely to be biking through rural South Miami-Dade or diving the reefs off the Keys.

BEST PLACE FOR FRESH FRUIT

Lincoln Road on Sunday.

BEST PLACE FOR FRESH VEGETABLES

Paradise Farm in Homestead and Totally Tomatoes in Davie. They provide me with the best fresh organic products, like different kinds of tomatoes, micro salad, carrots, et cetera.

BEST NATURAL HIGH

I love riding my bicycle early in the morning down to Homestead, passing through Coconut Grove and Coral Gables under the trees. The sensation is like being in the forests of my hometown.

BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI

There are different good reasons to live in Miami. I like the interaction between different cultures -- the influence and the traditions that came from South America and the modernity from North America. I also love diving and the Miami area offers a great many different reefs.

Recipe

CASA TUA TUNA TARTARE

1 pound tuna, sushi quality

1 tablespoon salted capers from Sicily

2 tablespoons taggiasca olives from Liguria

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (chopped)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Fleur de Sel (unrefined French sea salt)

Chop tuna, wash the capers in water, cut the sun-dried tomatoes and olives into small cubes the same size. Mix all ingredients, season with extra virgin olive oil and Fleur de Sel. Serve with crispy bruschetta.

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

Much of the success for this year's smash Floyd Collins lies with its solid-gold ensemble that produced one memorable performance after another. Besides Tally Sessions's work in the leading role, the show featured Blythe Gruda as the ethereal, off-kilter sister Nellie, Brian Charles Rooney as their moviestruck brother, Jerry Gulledge as their haunted father, and Lourelene Snedeker as their warm-hearted, long-suffering stepmother. The cast also featured terrific work from Michael Turner as a guilt-ridden reporter, Brian M. Golub as a wannabe folk singer with a bell-clear voice, and Ken Clement as a blustering, officious engineer. To that add Wayne Steadman, Mark Filosa, Terry M. Cain, Oscar Cheda, and Barry Tarallo and what you've got is a dream of a cast.

BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WHILE INTOXICATED

Your night out is over. You step out of the club's raging din and onto the sidewalk, where the relative silence is as shocking as a slap in the face. Head spinning, you realize you might not be up for the drive home just yet. Stumble over to Puerto Sagua for a no-frills Cuban meal in an atmosphere easygoing enough to enable a soft landing when you come back to earth. The restaurant -- a South Beach institution for more than 30 years -- stays open until 2:00 a.m., perfect for clubland's early exits, and it won't break the bank, assuming you have some bank left after those double-digit cocktails.

BEST ACTOR

With a powerful singing voice and boundless energy, Sessions conjured up the memorable title role in the best show of the year, staged by Actors' Playhouse. Sessions's Floyd Collins was a high-spirited Huck Finn whose entrapment in an underground cave led him from optimism to panic to horrible despair. Sessions is that rare musical-theater performer who keeps his work fully grounded in emotional truth. He adroitly handled the difficult challenges of his role -- long, musically complex solos and significant athletic demands.

BEST ACTRESS

Sometimes a performer finds the perfect role, or the perfect role finds her. Maybe it's karma or the planets' alignment. Maybe it's sheer luck or hard work -- or all of the above. Whatever the reason, Claire Tyler was the right actress in the right role as JC333 (Jaycee Triplethree), the android actress heroine of Alan Ayckbourn's dark fantasy Comic Potential at Actors' Playhouse. Tyler's performance clearly delineated JC's slow awakening to some hidden core of humanity. Her 'droid's awkward movements began to turn into some kind of nascent grace, and her squawk-box voice mellowed into something musical. The role also had a theatrical dash, as when Jaycee went haywire, spouting bits of long-past performances that had somehow been stored in her hard drive. Tyler has been very fortunate in her short theatrical career, working with top area directors and with excellent scripts. Besides her fine work with David Arisco in Comic Potential and the recent Sherlock's Last Case, she also scored in a trio of Joe Adler productions at GableStage: The Shape of Things, Popcorn, and The Play About the Baby. But it is the android with a heart of gold who remains the most memorable role of her young career.

BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY

Mandich may have the experience and credentials to be a jock-talk radio host (including three NFL Championship rings, one from his play as tight end on Miami's undefeated 1972 Dolphins squad), but it's his voice that really reaches out and boxes your ears. Where other jock-talk personalities embrace goofy sports-geek overenthusiasm or know-it-all laconicism (like Hank Goldberg, Mandich's colleague at WQAM-AM 560), Mad Dog's bombastic pipes carry the show. It's impossible to transcribe the stretched vowels and clipped consonants that roll around like gumballs in his mouth, but suffice it to say that the voice makes even the generic parts of his act seem fresh (the studied political incorrectness, barking at callers when the show gets a little slow). Almost everything he says seems funny, including his stock "Never better!" (delivered as if fired from a cannon) in response to callers' ubiquitous "Howyadoon' Mad Dog?" In addition to the afternoon call-in show (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), Mandich can be seen on Channel 10's Sports Jam Live, though it's hard to get the full impact of the voice when you have to watch him too.

Readers Choice: Neil Rogers, WQAM-AM (560)

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Personal Best: Sergio Sigala

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