Jamie DeRosa's soon-to-open Izzy's Fish & Oyster is a true family affair.
The restaurant, scheduled to open late fall 2014 and named after daughter Isabela Grace, is an homage to New England seafood shacks. Coincidentally, it's located on the same block as DeRosa's Tongue & Cheek. Although the two restaurants share a ZIP code and chef, they are very different.
Izzy's, located at 423 Washington Ave., is a partnership between the chef and his wife, Amy. Together, they are creating a homey atmosphere reminiscent of New England clam shacks Amy grew up with. The goal is to give South Beach a family-friendly restaurant where people can go for honest, fresh seafood without breaking the bank.
The idea for opening a seafood restaurant has long been on the mind of the chef, who worked for culinary greats like Geoffrey Zakarian, Allen Susser, Wolfgang Puck, and Joachim Splichal before opening Tongue & Cheek in April 2013, but the hazy picture transformed into a clear vision after the DeRosas brought their daughter to visit family up north for the first time. "Izzy's first trip to Rhode Island entailed us taking a ferry from Long Island to New London, Connecticut and then driving up the coast to Rhode Island. It was cold, grey, and raining that day and Izzy needed a break.
"We stumbled upon the Nor'easter Diner that advertised fresh New England seafood. We shared a bowl of clam chowder, steamers, and home made blueberry pie while I listened to Amy describe how she missed summer days near the ocean surrounded by family, friends, and food. I decided then that I wanted my daughter to experience the same. It was from this experience of sitting around the table, with my wife and daughter on a dreary day, reminiscing of childhood summers and enjoying amazing traditional food prepared from seafood that came from just across the street, that the concept of Izzy's was born."
Izzy's will feature a traditional menu of New England clam chowder with salted pork, potato, and house-made oyster crackers; steamers; and fresh Ipswich clams. At the bar, oysters and other shellfish will be freshly shucked, while diners can enjoy craft beer on tap and cocktails -- a part of the menu that's as important to the chef as the seafood.
Other items include a selection of crudos and ceviches, along with a smattering of favorites taken from the Tongue & Cheek menu like squid ink rigatoni with sea urchin and she crab butter and spaghettini all'arrabbiata with lobster and chives.
DeRosa wants this intimate restaurant to reflect a fully formed seafood house experience. A giant octopus mural will serve as a centerpiece to the white-washed walls, touched with accents of sea-sprayed colors. Meals start with Parker House rolls and end with homemade Boston cream pie -- both originating at the grand Parker House Hotel, Boston's grand dame since the mid-1800s.
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In between rolls and dessert? Rustic, comforting dishes heavily influenced by the fishing industry of the region: stuffed clams, lobster rolls, and fried calamari served with hot peppers are some of the items that may very well show up on the menu, still being finalized. "While all of these treats will not appear on Izzy's menu, we have taken inspiration from Amy's summers in New England and mine in Long Island to create a unique seafood restaurant and oyster bar."
As important as the food is the sense of community the chef wants to share with South Beach. DeRosa has already proved that Miami restaurants can be warm and inviting at his Tongue & Cheek, putting out free coffee on weekends for neighbors and throwing holiday parties for families. Now the chef is bringing his most intimate family moments to his new restaurant. Miami Beach could finally be getting a place, like the Cheers bar in Boston, where "everybody knows your name."