BEST INEXPENSIVE ITALIAN RESTAURANT - 2005
305-448-8599 Inexpensive shouldn't imply indifference, and inexpensive Italian needn't restrict itself to fried calamari and manicotti. At the charming, homespun, cheerily hued La Gastronomia, husband/wife team Roberto and Elizabeth Fayad offer diners friendly service and exemplary renditions of typical budget Italian fare such as mussels sautéed in white wine, salad Caprse, classic lasagna, and thin-crust, brick oven-pizzas. The pie topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil is on par with the finest in town. But this gastronomic couple tries harder than most to bring something special to the table, by which we refer to fresh spigola cooked in papillote, and orata stuffed with garlic, parsley, and lemon and baked alongside potatoes, tomatoes, black olives, and a healthy dose of fruity olive oil. You may be asking: What the heck is spigola and orata? Two delectably fresh Mediterranean fish (the latter known in Spain as dorada) flown in every Thursday from the Spanish coast. They alone are worth the price of the entire meal. The fish is $20, but you can eat more frugally by ordering dreamy homemade gnocchi Sorrentino for $9.95 and a surprisingly hefty New York strip with arugula salad and Parmesan shavings that's a steal at $17.95. Plenty of wallet-friendly wines from the tip of the boot to go along with the hearty fare, and fresh mango tarte for dessert. At La Gastronomia, inexpensive means incredibly rewarding.