Frugal diners who crave Italy's signature simple yet perfect sun-intensified fresh fish and vegetable flavors are in luck at casually stylish Specchio Café, which comes about as close as one can get in Miami to the authentic Italian dining experience. Try the grigliata di vegetali, not quite in the ripeness league as what one would find in Italy but still absolutely scrumptious -- because, for a change, the grilled seasonal vegetables actually taste grilled instead of merely looking like it. Also reliably excellent are all three carpaccio appetizers (especially the beef al palmito version, with crisp hearts of palm); the fresh pea soup, a must-not-miss if it's on the menu; linguinei alle vongole, whose light but satisfyingly garlic/wine/oil sauce is packed with tender baby clams; any homemade ravioli or fresh fish your waiter recommends; and your waiter -- who will be filled with authentic Italy/Surfside festive rather than SoBe attitude.
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From virtually my first stroll down Ocean Drive in the early Nineties, it was apparent that one of the main foreign languages being spoken was Italian, and the stroll back up Collins and Washington avenues, past designer emporiums, ...