Hankering for a meal created by a chef who worked at some of the finest Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe? No need to drive to some fancy-schmancy hotel restaurant and pay $30 for valet. Just find out where Il Fiorentino is parked for the evening. This food truck is unique in Miami (and maybe the world), for in it, one chef Lorenzo Lapi serves some of the finest Italian cuisine you'll ever eat. The handsome young chef might be easy on the eyes, but he's difficult to understand. After all, he hails from Florence, and when he gets excited explaining a dish, he peppers his speech with his native tongue. But there are no language barriers to his food. So here's a tip: When the chef suggests his polpettine di carne con purè di patata e olio al tartufo ($10), he's offering you his version of the classic meat and potatoes. Handmade meatballs rest on a bed of fluffy truffle-scented mashed potatoes. Other gorgeous interpretations of classic dishes include a near-perfect risotto alla zucca, caprino e salsiccia ($12), made with butternut squash, goat cheese, and Italian sausage. All pastas are freshly made, vegetables are locally sourced, and olive oil is imported from his homeland. Someday Lapi will certainly have a restaurant with difficult-to-get reservations, but for now you can grab his food from a truck. It's the foodie equivalent of buying shares of Apple stock in 1980 — and paying with pasta.

Hakkasan
Courtesy of Hakkasan

Saturday and Sunday are already good days, but the $28-per-guest dim sum lunch at Hakkasan makes them that much better. Each prix fixe includes steamed and grilled dumplings with various fillings, an entrée of noodles with beef tenderloin and spinach, baby bok choi with garlic, and dessert. Located on the fourth-floor rooftop of the tony Fontainebleau, this modern Chinese restaurant is arguably the prettiest place in Miami to enjoy dim sum. What's more, Hakkasan isn't your typical Chinese joint, but one that's garnered prestigious awards and Michelin stars since it opened in London more than ten years ago. But back to the dim sum: If you order off the à la carte menu, the steamed shrimp har gau dumplings are a crowd favorite, as are the grilled Shanghai potstickers (both $16 for four). There are also copious vegetarian options, such as sweet corn dumplings ($12 for three) and wolfberry mushroom dumplings ($8 for three).

Lure Fishbar
billwisserphoto.com

It's odd. Miami is surrounded by some of the most pristine waters in the world, yet very few restaurants here really do justice to beautiful seafood. Lure Fishbar is one of them. This South Florida outpost of a New York City classic serves an overwhelming array of sea creatures. There's an extensive raw bar featuring shellfish plateaus brimming with crab, shrimp, and oysters. There's also some gorgeous sushi. But the restaurant really lures diners in with unfussy takes on seafood favorites. A classic Maine lobster roll piles rich, flavorful chunks of the crustacean a mile high on buttery brioche ($30), and a grilled whole daurade ($34) is simply yet masterfully done. If you want pure decadence, order the bucatini pasta with butter-poached crab and uni crema ($38). Add Robert Ferrara's nautical-themed cocktail creations, and you have a meal fit for Triton.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Photo courtesy of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

The Oxford English Dictionary defines raw as "uncooked, in its natural state, not yet processed or purified." Urban Dictionary has a slightly different take. "Sex without a condom" is the leading definition. Coming in second: "slang term for any uncut drug; something pure, unadulterated, hard-core, serious, no kidding, no shit." Aside from the unprotected-sex part, that's a pretty good summary of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. Since its opening in early 2010, the midtown restaurant has developed a hard-core following. Much of its popularity is owed to executive chef Timon Balloo's masterful raw menu. Raw is all the rage these days, whether it's oatmeal or coconut water. Balloo does the word justice by dishing out simple, unadulterated seafood that satisfies. You can get fresh clams, crab legs, and lobster, of course. But Balloo's best offerings are his crudos, such as local fish sprinkled with fresh lime and ají amarillo; tuna with avocado and paddlefish caviar; steak tartare with pickled shallots, Dijon mustard, and quail eggs; and salmon slices topped with radish, pomegranate, and a tart white ponzu sauce. Serious. No kidding. No shit. Sounds pretty raw.

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli has been a fashion icon since the early 1970s, when he shocked Paris with his bold prints. Never one to be a fashion wallflower, Cavalli created colorful designs that made him famous among attention-seeking fashionistas. Now he has brought his signature brand of whimsical eye candy to his Miami Beach restaurant and lounge. If you're looking for something staid and subtle, keep walking. But if you want your restaurant to be better dressed than you, Cavalli Miami is the place. Have a cocktail at the neon-pink backlit bar and peruse the pictures on the wall that show the designer cavorting with all sorts of beautiful people. The hostess, dressed in signature Cavalli animal print, shows you to your table, where you find more animal prints mingling with psychedelic florals. It's as if Cirque du Soleil, a zebra, and a poppy shacked up inside a disco. And because Cavalli is a master of playing with patterns, this mix of colors and themes somehow works, entrancing you while you sip on a lavender-hued cocktail and dine on oversize Alice-in-Firenze plates. Adding to the decor are the celebrities who dine there — because any restaurant can have fresh flowers, but only Cavalli can have Justin Timberlake as a centerpiece.

Local House Restaurant

Miami is a design-driven city with a plethora of visually stunning restaurants. Unsurprisingly, many eateries turn to the ocean for interior inspiration, but the Local House's beach-chic decor is especially enchanting. Located inside the Sense Beach House boutique hotel, the restaurant attracts diners with its fresh seafood but invites them to linger by way of a warm and inviting space. Ice-blue banquettes, white lacquered tables, and beige chairs rest atop light wood floors to create a mood that's more South Hampton than South Beach. Meanwhile, a large glossy white bookcase is festooned with books and quirky knickknacks. It's utterly serene and serves as an ideal backdrop for a casual yet thoroughly romantic soiree. Start off with oysters ($15 for six or $29 for 12); then move on to a refreshing melon and citrus salad assembled with feta cheese, spinach, and fresh mint ($12). As a main dish, the seared scallops with toasted Israeli couscous are a crowd pleaser ($26). Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are also offered, so you can enjoy the surroundings almost any time.

S&S Diner

S&S Diner has been around since thirty-eight.

That's sure as hell a long-ago date.

The food is quite edible

and the service incredible.

A U-shaped counter fills the pintsize space.

Shovel your chow at a leisurely pace.

Old movie posters recall a time

when you downed a whole turkey for only a dime.

S&S serves breakfast and lunch food.

You'll pay in cash for the whole brood.

Afterward, head out for a walk

across to the graveyard for a serious talk

about eggs and bacon and Al Capone

and Santería, Vodou, and sun-bleached bone.

This is Miami's most genuine diner.

In all of South Florida, ain't nothin' finer.

Verde

They say art feeds the soul. That's all well and good, but after spending hours perusing art, you're starving. And even though that Warhol looks good enough to eat, it tastes like cardboard. Instead, head to Verde Restaurant & Bar, conveniently located inside Pérez Art Museum Miami. This delightful little café has a spectacular view of Biscayne Bay's changing colors — a work of art in constant flux. The menu is short yet eclectic — meaning there's an item that speaks to your cravings whether you're feeling a squash blossom pizza ($13) or bigeye tuna tartare ($14). Of course, art is best interpreted with a slight buzz, so have a guava margarita ($12). Hell, have two. Your poor, tortured, artistic soul (and your stomach) will thank you.

City lights twinkle in the near distance as you enter the oversize patio from the dock. Whether you arrive by yacht or pre-owned Toyota, Seasalt and Pepper's view is gorgeous. Make your way to the bar for a cocktail and a dozen oysters. As you slurp down the cool, briny kisses of the sea, allow your eyes to wander away from your date. Is that Beyoncé and Jay Z in the corner? Since the restaurant's opening about six months ago, it has hosted some of the brightest stars in the Miami firmament. They come to dine alfresco on organic filet mignon ($45), Maine lobster thermidor ($50), and house-made foie gras ($18). For one sparkling evening, you can feel what it's like to be a pampered celebrity. And it feels good — even if you drive home in the Toyota (we won't tattle when you say your yacht is in for service).

LT Steak & Seafood
Photo courtesy of LT Steak & Seafood

There are times when being a do-it-yourself kind of person works to your advantage. After all, it's pretty handy to change your own tire or make homemade cupcakes. But there are some things that really should be left to the experts — like rewiring the electricity in your house or cooking the perfect steak. First off, that hunk of meat you brought home in the Styrofoam packaging might have come from a cow that died of natural causes (ya never know). Second, your electric two-burner stove in your studio apartment simply can't generate the heat needed to get the ideal sear. Which is why you go to BLT Steak. Laurent Tourondel's Miami Beach restaurant uses only prime cuts of certified Angus beef, naturally aged for tenderness. Then, chef de cuisine Daniel Ganem sears the meat at 1,700 degrees. That's what gives the New York strip ($58) its mouthwatering char on the outside while keeping it cool and pink on the inside. It takes a real pro to honor such a fine piece of meat. Now go ahead and savor your dinner. You can call the electrician tomorrow.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®