The restaurant industry is fickle. Neighborhoods change, food trends come and go, and steady customers move. So when a restaurant turns 20, it's cause for celebration. Cafe Prima Pasta, the family-run Italian bistro on 71st Street in Miami Beach, is reaching its two-decade milestone.
Owner Gerardo Cea told Short Order that when the restaurant opened in 1993, the neighborhood was very different. "No one wanted to hang out on 71st Street. It was dark, dirty, and deserted, and the only appeal was the movie theater." But Cea didn't give up on the cafe -- or the neighborhood.
Cea campaigned the city to improve street lighting so people would feel safer at night. Six months later, North Beach appointed Cea to its development board of directors, since the restaurant owner had such a vested interest in having this stretch of Miami Beach overcome adversity and thrive.
Now, 20 years later, the cafe is a bustling neighborhood hub. Cea says many waiters and staff have been with the restaurant since its beginning. Indeed, the restaurant is a family affair, with patriarch Arturo overseeing the kitchen as executive chef, while Gerardo's mother Carla bakes the restaurant's breads and desserts daily. Gerardo and his brother Fabian oversee operations at the 140-seat bistro.
Patrons are considered part of the extended family. "We treat our customers like they're one of us, calling many by their first names upon arrival." Cea says the recipe for the restaurant's longevity is simple: "We infuse family and love into everything we do."
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To celebrate the occasion, the Cea family is offering a complimentary bellini to patrons upon arrival, a free bruschetta appetizer, homemade cookies for dessert, and some sambuca after the meal. The anniversary freebies start Monday, November 11, and continue through the end of the year.