At Bocce Bar, Timon Balloo doesn't replicate Italian dishes. "My goal wasn't to see a recipe and repeat it, but to learn about the culture behind it," he explains.
Before opening the two-month-old restaurant in midtown, he took two research trips to Italy. There, he explored markets, ate copious amounts of pasta, and marveled at the country's food.
Now the executive chef employs Florida-grown produce and cooks them in Italian ways: "I'm not getting tomatoes straight from Italy. I'm getting them from Paradise Farms. When I cook, I have to maintain the integrity of what each tomato meant in Italy: Was it supposed to be acidic? Was it supposed to be sweet?"
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This approach involves embracing the bitter flavors found in rapini, treviso, and, of course, Campari. Bocce Bar serves an aged Negroni ($13) -- Campari, Martini Rosso vermouth, and gin -- as well as a Sbagliato ($13), a version of the classic drink that replaces gin with prosecco.
Aging helps Negronis go down smoothly. "The barrel adds some smokiness. The wood gives it more depth and complexity," he says. "It's not for everyone, but I think there's a window of curiosity. People are always looking to try new things."
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.