Fornaro in the Grove: Pizza, Breaded Mozzarella, and Filet Mignon

The polpettone is a meatloaf-like dish that's owner Lorenzo Ramone's passion.
The polpettone is a meatloaf-like dish that's owner Lorenzo Ramone's passion.
Photo by Jose Cuello

If you're unfamiliar with polpettone, you won't be after visiting Fornaro in Coconut Grove. At this month-old restaurant, the Italian meatloaf-like dish reigns supreme. You can get polpettone on top of your pizza or inside a panini, and of course you can order it as a main dish ($14.90). To make it, Brazilian chef Marcus de Mello shapes Italian mozzarella cheese and freshly ground filet mignon into a disk that he breads and fries. The resulting crisp mound of oozing cheese and meat is placed on a bed of homemade tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. It's not for the calorie-conscious. 

"My goal is to have young children ask their parents to take them out for polpettone. Then I will know I’ve been successful,” owner 
Lorenzo Ramon says. The restaurateur owned five restaurants in his native Brazil before moving to Miami with his family. Though this is Ramon's first time running an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, he says the food of Italy is practically universal and has always been his passion. 

Fornaro's relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices (entrées cost $11 to $15) are aligned with Ramone's vision to make this eatery a neighborhood spot. However, if this location does well, he says he'd like to open outposts in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. New Times was recently invited to try some of chef de Mello's cooking, and apart from the aforementioned polpettone, here are some highlights. 

What's not to like about sausage bread?
What's not to like about sausage bread?
Photo by Jose Cuello

The words "Italian," "sausage," and "bread" are just meant to go together. For proof, you need not look further than the Italian sausage bread starter ($9.95). It's essentially beef-and-pork sausage and cheese wrapped in pizza dough drizzled with olive oil and baked in the oven. If you're thinking, What could be bad about that?, you're right —- nothing —- it's great.   

The calamari starter isn't overly fried.
The calamari starter isn't overly fried.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim

Ramon says he tried 12 squid purveyors before settling on one from California. The effort paid off, because the lightly fried calamari are impeccably fresh. 

Fornaro's ten-inch pies are baked in a wood-burning oven. This one is topped with artichokes, mushrooms, fresh tomato sauce, and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Fornaro's ten-inch pies are baked in a wood-burning oven. This one is topped with artichokes, mushrooms, fresh tomato sauce, and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim

On the corner of SW 27th Avenue (around the way from Coral Bagels) in Coconut Grove, Fornaro prides itself on its ten-inch individual-size pizzas made with fresh tomato sauce. Ramon says their ultra-thin, crisp crusts help distinguish them. Pies here are baked in a wood-burning oven and finished off in a gas stove. Especially delectable is the topping combination of artichokes and mushrooms with a hint of truffle oil ($14.90). 

Fiocchi pasta stuffed with pear and Gorgonzola and studded with sun-dried tomato.
Fiocchi pasta stuffed with pear and Gorgonzola and studded with sun-dried tomato.
Photo by Jose Cuello

Pastas are available too, including purse-shaped fiocchi stuffed with pear and Gorgonzola ($14.90). It's a classic combination that's rich, and sometimes a little decadence goes a long way. 

Fig cake is an original dessert item.
Fig cake is an original dessert item.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim

Fig cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce ($7.80) isn't a dessert seen on many Miami menus. It's a nice, light option after a somewhat heavy meal. 

Fornaro's black-and-white decor features subway tiles and Edison light bulbs.
Fornaro's black-and-white decor features subway tiles and Edison light bulbs.
Photo by Jose Cuello

When Farinelli 1937 by Maurizio Farinelli of Strada in the Grove and Michael Schwartz's Harry's Pizzeria open, the area will be home to a trifecta of gourmet pie places. And who knows, this neighborhood might even become Miami's pizza hub. Here's to a saucier Coconut Grove. 


Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter and Instagram.

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miles
Harry's Pizzeria

3918 N. Miami Ave.
Miami, FL 33127

786-275-4963

www.harryspizzeria.com


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