This fall, chef Fabio Viviani is bringing his famed Chicago-based Siena Tavern to South Beach. Viviani and his team plan to adapt the menu from the Chicago location, which earned the title of "Best New Restaurant" by Chicago magazine, for Miami by focusing on lighter items such as bites from the crudo bar, fresh salads, and thin-crust pizzas. "The reality is, a few months ago it was -15 degrees in Chicago. Not everything that works there will work here in Miami," Viviani, who was a fan-favorite on Top Chef: Season 5, told Short Order. "We plan to bring about 50 percent of the dishes from Chicago and develop the rest of the menu just for Miami. It will be the same feeling but a little lighter to account for the heat."
Heat and humidity are high on the team's radar, and for good reason. Viviani and his crew have been monitoring the temperature and humidity here in Miami for the last six months to develop their own proprietary blend of flour that they will use for the Miami location's thin-crust pizza.
"It will be different from the flour we use in Chicago. It has a higher protein to gluten ratio so it won't absorb the humidity and get soggy on your plate," Viviani said. Pizzas at Siena Tavern will be fired up in a penny tile encrusted wood-fired pizza oven that features a rock bottom with temperatures up to 800 degrees. Expect to see pizzas like Viviani's truffle mushroom, which is topped with oyster, shitaki, maitake, mozzarella, and shaved winter truffle; The Burrata, topped with marinated eggplant, zucchini, and of course, a pizza margherita on the menu.
Other items on the menu you can expect to see include locally-sourced produce and seafood, as well as Siena Tavern signature dishes, lightened up for Miami temperatures. Dishes include the Wagyu beef meatball (which is so popular it has its own Twitter account), balsamic-drizzled hamachi crudo spiked with jalapeño, and Viviani's coccoli -- crispy dough rolls filled with stracchino cheese and prosciutto de parma, then topped with pesto and truffle honey.
Bites from the crudo bar will be made up of raw fish accompanied by flavor-packed toppings including ahi tuna with fennel and peppercorn crust, pickled Tuscan kale, garlic chips, and habanero oil. Viviani's menu also includes a handful of homemade pastas including gluten-free options that he and his team will make in house everyday. For those who can't fathom the thought of ending the night dessert-free, Viviani will offer his signature bomboloni, Italian hole-less donuts made from mashed potatoes and filled by diners at their table using injection bottles filled with decadent dipping sauces such as whiskey-caramel, chocolate hazelnut, and raspberry chianti.
A custom cocktail program is also in the works for Siena Tavern that aims to add modern Italian flavors to classic drinks. One of the cocktails on the menu will be a twist on limoncello that will combine a lemon-berry merit age-infused vodka with lemon juice, lemon cordial, bourbon-smoked syrup, and bourbon barrel-aged blood orange bitters.
Decor is still in the works, but Viviani and his team told us the look and feel will reflect a hybrid of a rustic Italian market, a fine dining restaurant, and a modern and industrial tavern that aims to bridge old world comfort and hospitality with a contemporary menu and design.
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"It will be the kind of place where you can come in after a day at the beach with your friends to grab a pizza and some wine at the bar, but we also have lots of intimate seating throughout the restaurant if you want to come in and have a romantic date night," said Viviani, who hopes to offer diners an experience that is simultaneously comfortable, vibrant and social, much like Viviani himself.
Siena Tavern Miami, the second U.S. location, is set to open this October at 404 Washington Ave., in the 10,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by China Grill. If the spot ends up anywhere near as popular as its Chicago cousin, make your reservations now as that location currently books at least a month out.