This past February, Giorgio Rapicavoli opened Eating House, a pop-up restaurant in an unassuming place in Coral Gables. Since then, the 48-seater has been serving more than 200 dinners per evening. Crowds eager to try Rapicavoli's fun-filled fare consistently fill the small restaurant. "The food has been called everything from modern American to stoner food to edible graffiti," he explains. "Whatever it is, it's ours.
"We try to give familiar flavors in ways you haven't experienced them," the chef says. They include heirloom tomatoes with frozen coconut milk, ginger, lime, nuoc cham, peanuts, and basil. Other dishes playfully reminisce on childhood treats, such as a dessert called "breakfast" that includes milk pudding paired with a Fruity Pebbles mousse. "Our menu is very culturally diverse because I grew up in such a diverse city. We have fun with the food at Eating House."
Rapicavoli was initially known for his three-year stint as executive chef at 660 at the Angler's in Miami Beach. He catapulted to national prominence on Food Network's Chopped and became the first Miami toque to win on the show. He used the $10,000 prize money to open Eating House.
The pop-up's success marked the official launch of Rapicavoli's career. In fact, he is now preparing to make Eating House a permanent restaurant this fall. Anticipating a grand opening in late November, Rapicavoli is adding more graffiti-inspired art, a wine wall, and more of an industrial feel. "Everybody on our team is young and up to it. We're making the space a little hipper."
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In the future, Rapicavoli hopes to open a cocktail bar in Coral Gables and possibly an Italian restaurant. "My mom is full-blooded Italian, from Bra in the Piedmont," he explains. With his upcoming projects, he says, "I'd like to get back to my roots."
The chef is also big on traveling for food, including visits to experimental, innovative restaurants such as Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago. "To eat some of the best food in America," he explains, is what keeps him consistently inspired.
But for now, Rapicavoli is remaining focused on growing Eating House. "The beauty of it is looking at what we were doing with two hours of prep. Imagine what we can do when we take over the space for the whole 24 hours." An unpoppable chef with a culinary playground all to himself? We can only imagine.
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