Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant - 2012
The smell of garlic, tomatoes, and smoldering cheese accosts the senses inside Spartico at the Mayfair Hotel, located in Coconut Grove. Chef/restaurateur Jonathan Eismann consulted on the original launch, and chef Philippe Boutinet manages the kitchen, where "Roman pizza" is made in an "Ambrogi wood-burning oven from Milan" (do they not manufacture ovens in Rome?). In addition to turning out crisp, classic pies, the restaurant has a homestyle Italian menu of items ranging from overflowing antipasto platters ($15.95) to fritto misto ($10.95). Parmesan choices are organic chicken breast or eggplant — each doused in seasoned breading and then baked with a simple marinara sauce, fresh local mozzarella, and Grana Parmigiano cheese. You can get a modest plate of spaghetti pomodoro ($10.95) or an almost healthful "SoBe Vegetarian" pizza topped with roasted roma tomatoes, mozzarella, veggies, mixed olives, and mache lettuce ($13.95). Do not make the critical mistake of skipping the house garlic bread ($5.95), which might seem redundant before pizza and pasta. But trust us — it's perfect when pulled from that wood-burning oven. Bonus: Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. all week. For calming Italian cravings without breaking the bank, Spartico is a trattoria safe house.