Best Intimate Dining 2016 | Soya e Pomodoro | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
George Martinez

Not only is Soya e Pomodoro a delicious and authentic Italian restaurant, but it also offers one of the most unique dining atmospheres around. Owners Rosario Magrelli and Cristian D'oria left Italy with a Miami culinary career in mind, opening the downtown eatery in 2004. Nestled between two rundown watch repair stores, it's the kind of place where passersby stop to peer in and ask, "What is this?" The narrow interior looks like a combination of a thrift store and a Venetian coffee shop, lit almost entirely by sun that streams in through a floor-to-ceiling window. The open space, adorned with knickknacks and items such as clothes on a laundry line, creates the privacy and serenity of an Italian alleyway. The vintage aesthetic makes this restaurant distinct among Miami's ultra-contemporary buildings. Between the decor and the live music, this place is perfect for everything from a leisurely lunch to a hot date. A meal at Soya e Pomodoro is more than intimate — it's personal, and feels like you're eating in an Italian family's home. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 6 to 11:30 p.m.

This new-age-meets-retro corner diner comes to life at night, catering to the after-hours crowd with all of the deep-fried, over-the-top, indulgent fare Miami craves. Located across the street from Story Nightclub on Collins Avenue, Big Pink has become a South Beach destination that buzzes through the early hours. Thursday through Saturday, the restaurant is open until 5:30 a.m., and clubgoers pack into shiny, old-school plastic booths. The menu is equally exciting and overwhelming, with more than 200 items that include virtually every dish imaginable, ranging from tamer late-night classics such as cheese pizza ($12.95) and patty melts ($14.50) to outrageous signature creations like the mac 'n' cheese waffle sandwich ($12.95) and bacon-wrapped barbecued meatloaf ($16.95). The big portions and big flavors have been attracting rowdy crowds for more than 20 years, and frankly, a meal at Big Pink is a party in itself.

Readers' choice: La Sandwicherie

In an area that's dominated by construction and busy offices, Seaspice is an elegant oasis. The extensive menu is globally influenced but seafood-focused, and the atmosphere feels like an upscale island vacation. Right beside the Miami River, guests can dine on plush couches shaded by overhangs in the daytime and surrounded by twinkling lights and candles at night. The indoor areas, including a spacious dining room, are housed in a renovated warehouse that gives an edgy touch of elegance to the nautical theme. The restaurant is inherently romantic and provides the tranquility of outdoor dining away from the crowds at more popular hot spots. The warm breeze off the river makes executive chef Angel Leon's ocean-inspired place even more pleasing and the meal's hefty price tag a little easier to take. Seafood standouts include the Chilean sea bass casserole ($45), presented in a charming cast-iron dish on a bed of thinly sliced Yukons, topped with a pâté-like mixture of truffles and porcini mushrooms. Enjoy waterfront luxury at Seaspice — no yacht required.

Readers' choice: Rusty Pelican

Courtesy of Palmeiras Beach Club

Every now and then, it's important to get away. If jumping on a plane doesn't sound realistic, sneak away to Palmeiras instead. This restaurant and beach club is located a quarter-mile off Coconut Grove — and can be reached only by crossing a bridge. What makes this spot so special is its dynamic, Mediterranean-inspired menu paired with sweeping, unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay. The menu, crafted by former Seaspice chef Alfredo Alvarez, highlights Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek influence with dishes such as wahoo crudo drizzled in tangerine vinaigrette, and red wine linguine in truffle oil, a must-try for first-timers here. Prices range from $12 to $32, but plates can easily be shared among two or three patrons. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, both with picturesque views in the most peaceful atmosphere. After your meal, take advantage of the resort's amenities to justify the restaurant's prices.

Lavish decor, low lights, and romantic Italian cuisine. The Delano's resident restaurant, Bianca, gives diners a break from South Beach craziness for an evening of luxury and flavor. Chef de cuisine Jason Bamford, who joined the restaurant more than a year ago, has developed a menu featuring simple yet innovative plates with bits of sexy and savory along the way. Menu items include steak tartare ($24) with lavender and bone marrow, bigeye tuna pizza ($26) showered in a light truffle oil, branzino ($44) served with roasted potato and herb salad, and a variety of pastas ($25 to $45), including a risotto of the day, a unique creation crafted by Bamford. Plan to dine slowly to take advantage of the eatery's seductive and swank atmosphere, and pair dinner dishes with wine and cocktail selections presented on an in-house iPad. The restaurant offers a Sunday-brunch soiree too, adding a Mediterranean and boozy flair to the age-old meal with a buffet, drink selections, and a DJ.

Courtesy of Grove Bay Grill

When Scotty's Landing, the cozy outdoor restaurant in Coconut Grove, closed its doors in 2013, our hearts mourned. It was the charming spot for Grovites, tourists, and locals from across the county. But in late 2015, the space underwent minor restorations, got a new name, and — bam — we had Grove Bay Grill. Despite the changes, it still feels like the same old home away from home — or rather, backyard away from your backyard. (It's a new idiom — just go with it). White plastic chairs and flimsy tables are crammed beneath a wooden roof. And while the random guitar player sings strange cover songs from the '80s, the sound of barks and woofs and heavy breathing fills the joint. Careful where you walk, or you might just trip over a water bowl. At Grove Bay Grill, the pups — of all shapes and sizes — are treated just as well as the human guests. "Another Blue Moon for me and some water for Itchy," you tell your server. And right away, she returns with a refreshing bowl for your lapdog and gives Itchy a good scratch behind the ears. On a weekend afternoon, it's not unusual to see a dog curled up under nearly every table. The place may have a new name, but your friends will still text you to meet at Scotty's Landing for drinks Sunday afternoon. Don't forget your pooch.

When it comes to dumplings, Sang's is king. On weekends, you'll find a ravenous crowd of fanatics. And the dim sum is anything but standard. Sure, the tender, translucent-skinned har gow — shrimp dumplings — ($3.35) are pristine, but it's the hard-to-find other options you want. Litter your table with dishes filled with pyramid-shaped spinach dumplings ($2.95) dotted with cubes of slightly bitter bamboo shoots. And don't miss the springy beef balls wrapped in tofu skins ($2.75) or the crisp, pan-fried noodles tossed in XO sauce ($8.50) that take on an intense umami funk thanks to plenty of dried scallops. Finish with a sugary pineapple bun ($2.55). Yes, in Hong Kong, people use them for a sugar jolt to start the day, but here there's nothing wrong with using them to put you in a food coma all afternoon.

Apeiro Kitchen & Bar is named for the Latin word for "infinity," which also happens to be the amount of praise deserved by its lunch special. There are an uncountable number of options and pairings, with no plate exceeding $15. From bacon-wrapped dates ($9) to Moroccan-spiced chicken wings ($12) and forest mushroom flatbreads drizzled in truffle oil ($14), the midtown eatery offers choices galore. Portions are large, with plates like a lamb burger ($15) with tzatziki sauce and feta cheese or a prime rib gyro ($14) with shredded romaine and tomato bound to keep you full until happy hour. There's a ten-for-$10 menu too, where dishes such as chicken kebabs, crisp eggplant pitas, lamb sliders, and curry chicken salads are offered for $10 flat. Even with a drink, tax, and tip, this midday meal can be had for less than $20.

Laine Doss

What do you get when you cross Miami's most beloved and creative pastry chefs with an innovative expert on savory stuff? You get a Miami win. Bachour Bakery + Bistro just opened and is already serving lunches that are both delicious and gorgeous. Chef Henry Hané is in charge of the savory side, and his dishes include gazpacho ($9), which is made creamy with olive oil powder and garnished with edible flowers that provide a fresh bite. It's vegan, but you'd never know it. A slaw consists of a rainbow of fresh veggies on a bed of carrot-ginger purée ($14), and a smoked salmon tartine ($17) is garnished with roe, crisp capers, and egg snow in a tribute to the iconic lox and bagels. The only warning is to save room for dessert because Antonio Bachour's creations are simply out of this world. A one-person mojito cake ($7) starts with mint cake and lime mousse, topped with Bacardi rum gelée. There are also macarons and Nutella croissants and freshly baked bread to take home — everything almost too beautiful to eat. Get over yourself and demolish these exquisite offerings. This art was meant to be viewed — and then consumed.

Both a shrine to the Miami Dolphins and to sliced deli meat, the Football Sandwich Shop has been churning out sports-themed sammies since 1972. Subs on amazingly soft hoagie rolls are named after players and positions. Think of it as a sportier version of New York's Carnegie Deli and its famous Woody Allen sandwich. Instead of a nosh named for a comedian, go for the the Zonker (or simply the #39), named for Dolphins running back Larry Csonka. It's piled high with ham, salami, and provolone, and at $6.29, it's large enough to feed a professional athlete. Other sandwich tributes include the Submarino ($8.79) and a turkey sub named for Mercury Morris ($8.69). Although not named for a Dolphin, the Superstrami — a hot sub filled with what seems like 20 pounds of pastrami, turkey, Swiss, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing ($10.49) — is one hearty meal. Add a side of homemade macaroni salad ($1.70) for a touchdown of a lunch.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®