If only Monty Python's John Cleese had gone to Amici's instead of the National Cheese Emporium when "he came over all peckish." Unlike the comedy team's famed skit of a barren shop and deceptive store owner, Amici's offers a cornucopia of "cheesy combustibles" laid out in a helpful manner. Proprietors Carmine Chirico and Carlo Casagrande hail from New York, and their Italian market proves they know good food -- cheese in particular. Their new store, which opened this past December, has a selection that ranges from Stilton to Sage Darby and everything in between. The cheeses are displayed with helpful suggestions on accompanying wines and foods. For example they recommend crusty breads, grapes, and a hearty red wine with fontina val d'Aosta. Amici's also sells cheese accouterments, such as fondue sets, cutters, and special knives. Their fresh mozzarella marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, and a pinch of red pepper is heavenly. There are even huge wheels of cheddar, "the single most popular cheese in the world."

Best Miami Sports Museum Disguised As A Restaurant

The Big Cheese

This perennially packed Italian eatery features not only huge portions of baked spaghetti and ziti, as well as pizza that lives up to the place's name; it also is stuffed with posters, autographed photos, jerseys, banners, balls, and helmets from Miami sports icons. Shula, Johnson, Schnellenberger, Morris, Marino, The Rock ("Can you smell what the Big Cheese is cookin'?"), the Miami Heat Dancers -- they're all here in memorabilia form. Bring the family, order a couple of dozen steaming garlic rolls, and soak up the sporty spices.
There is a simple menu for this plain restaurant. You can get whole-wheat pita sandwiches filled with chicken salad, hummus, mixed vegetables, or peanut butter. Spread the house dressing over the meal for a tangy flavor. Warm spinach pies stuffed with tuna and avocado or cheese and tomato also are available. Want to delete the carbs? Try the salads made with romaine lettuce or the soup of the day. Wash it all down with freshly squeezed juice, usually mixed with carrot juice. All the food is prepared before the customers as they sit on stools at the wood counter topped with beige tiles. The interior décor amounts to boxes stacked in corners, a large silver drink cooler, and pistachio-green walls. A sandwich-and-juice combo costs about six bucks. Simple. Don't plan on late-night healthy dining, though. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the place closes one hour earlier on Sunday.
If you're going to eat octopus, do it at Benny's, where the house specialties include mofongo (basically mashed, fried, and seasoned plantains) stuffed with octopus, conch, lobster, or other seafood. Benny's is a pleasant place to dine, even if it is in a strip center. It's bright and clean and somehow when the sun is shining in through the front windows, you can almost smell a sea breeze. And the food is great. All the signature Puerto Rican delights are here, including piononos and alcapurrias (sort of a Puerto Rican-style meat pie; the alcapurria de jueyes is addictive), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), and tostones de pana pen (better than regular tostones). If you're really serious, there's always mondongo (tripe), gandinga (pork or beef liver), and cuajito (stomach of a cow or pig). The service is gracious and friendly, and the coquito is super-rico.
If you've never had a flop, or never even heard of one, it's time to make your move. Nearly every soul-food joint in Liberty City, Overtown, and Model City serves this mixture of iced tea and lemonade. It's a smooth and refreshing beverage, highly recommended for the coming season. We like People's mix because they brew the tea fresh. As for the name, no definitive answer could be learned from those who regularly partake. Perhaps it comes from flip-flop. Or maybe it's just meant to be drunk on those searing summer days so hot you can't do anything but flop down and sip a cool one.
Situated within a block of county hall and the old courthouse, this breezy cafetería brews the black gold that fuels the machinery of Miami-Dade government (such as it is). Though the kind souls behind the counter are mostly Nicaraguan, they've mastered the ancient Cuban secret of making espresso both strong as battery acid and sweet as an abuelita's smile. Your next trip to the main library will be incomplete without a trip to Cacique's Corner for a colada that will make your tongue bristle like an angry hedgehog.
One of our most beloved Mexican eateries, this hacienda frequently scores points with us for individual items, namely the smokin' hot fajitas. But you really can't go astray with any of the homestyle fare, whether you order nachos or ceviche or albondiguitas (meatballs). Throw in some tasty house specialties, like the zesty chicken nuggets coated with flour and jalapeño pepper juice; a strolling mariachi band that doesn't overstay its welcome; and kitschy surroundings that include examples of every type of Mexican souvenir ever made, and you've got yourself a complete experience -- almost. Utter fulfillment arrives in the form of the frozen margarita, naturally, the ultimate complement to some spicy meatballs.
There is more to MiMi's than just ravioli. Pyramids of imported Italian canned tomatoes stand sentry in the large front window. Along one wall shelves overflow with olive oils, vinegars, artichoke and palm hearts, olives, sauces, plus myriad goodies. In the center of the store sit nuts and salty snacks, sweets such as marzipan and imported chocolates, cookies, and candies. Along the other wall are a freezer and refrigerated cases loaded with gnocchi, tortellini, ravioli, an array of sauces, and prepared specialties like eggplant rollatini. Further down in the fridge are prosciutto, soppresatta (mild and hot), hard salami, and more, plus wondrous fresh pasta (plain and spinach) in every shape: tubes, strands, curls. At the very end lies a selection of healthy frozen pasta dishes and, of course, the succulent ravioli. Medium- and jumbo-size, stuffed with seafood, pumpkin, goat cheese, porcini mushrooms, broccoli and cheese, chicken, even a skim-milk version for dieters. A variety of Italian cookies and fresh mozzarella, plain or smoked, still beckon. The small, densely packed market, in place for ten years at its current location, resided just down the street for seven years before. A sister emporium on Hollywood's Johnson Street has been around for 30 years. Fill up on the goods from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Say what you will about the French, but anyone witnessing the worldwide millennium celebrations would have to agree: They've got style. So does La Palme d'Or, an already excellent restaurant that was elevated further by that rarest of occurrences, an inspired marketing idea. During the first week of each month, a guest Michelin-rated chef prepares signature dishes from his restaurant in France. For lovers of fine Gallic cuisine, nothing can top this opportunity to sample fare from chefs such as Paul Bocuse, or Alain Passard of Paris's amazing Restaurant Arpége. Regular La Palme chef Philippe Ruiz is enough of a talent in his own right to make it the best French restaurant, even without these Michelin masters. Want proof? One bite of his foie gras ravioli with goat cheese mousse and black truffle shavings should do. Bonus best scam: Wear a bathing suit under your dining apparel and sneak a postdinner dip in the hotel's alluring swimming pool.
A fajita is a fajita: some kind of meat, chicken, or fish, served on a sizzling platter with a bunch of standard bell peppers and onions. On the side you'll receive some chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, refried pinto beans, maybe a little guacamole or sour cream, plus some flour tortillas to roll around it all. Agreed? Not if you've been to La Gloria. Here, beef or chicken fajitas are sautéed with onions, but instead of bell peppers you'll find palate-tingling poblanos on the hot plate. Refried beans are made with the black turtle variety rather than the light-brown pintos. And tortillas, served warm and coddled in a woven basket, are soft, homemade corn disks, not commercially produced, bleached flour patties. As a result customers discover how fajitas, which are so ubiquitous you can find them at Taco Bell, are meant to be. Fans can pick up a La Gloria fajita, and -- you guessed it -- drop the chalupa for real.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®