I was invited to preview the menu of Cavatelli Italian Trattoria which opens tomorrow in the Roads. A brother-and-sister team made up of executive chef Imanol Achurra and his sister, owner Julene Achurra. Chef Achurra and sous chef Michael Flores Interiano prepared a sampling of several menu items from the mostly Italian menu for me to try (there a couple of tapas items on the menu).
The restaurant stands apart from other Italian restaurants in Miami as soon as you taste the bread. Cavatelli's imports the raw dough from Spain and then bakes it on the premises. The bread is a perfectly baked, slightly crispy on the outside, soft and airy on the inside, loaf of bread cut into perfectly sized portions. I go on about the bread because it is worth going on about. Cavatelli's bread ruined me for other bread. I'm not kidding.
Most of the menu items are prepared simply, with olive oil, and fresh garlic, herbs and produce. There is no need to compensate with overpowering sauces and cheese--these are two talented men in the kitchen. Everything was so fresh that I wondered if there was a garden out back (there wasn't) and overall everything on the menu was quite tasty. However, I singled out a few favorites which deserve special mention.
The gnocchetti di spinacci e ricotta, one of Cavatelli's signature dishes, is to die for--melt in your mouth gnocchi made fresh on the premises, lovingly imbued with fresh spinach and ricotta and served on a bed of noisette, sage, and parmesan. The spinach gnocchi is insanely good. I can't imagine not ordering it every time I visit Cavatelli's in the future.
You can tell the chefs apply some creativity to the menu and don't want to rely lazily on spaghetti carbonara or puttanesca. The first layer of the fettuccini ai fritti di mare is a handmade black fettuccini--made black by using squid ink. How cool is that? A chunky sauce made with tomatoes and seafood is layered prettily on top and makes a great contrast to the dark pasta. This plate is as pretty as it is delicious.
I loath mussels. Well, I used to until I tried the mejillones del chef at Cavatelli's -- mussels sautéed in wine sauce with diced white onions, garlic, and parsley. When the plate was put before me, I winced. And even though I didn't like mussels, I felt it was only right to try them and judge them from an unbiased point of view. Thank God that I am such an enlightened individual. These mussels weren't gummy or tough; in fact they were a tactile delight. And the sauce was savory. But honestly, the best compliment I can give the mussels is that they converted me from a hater to a believer. The sous chef told me that there is a trick he learned from Chef Achurra to achieve the perfect mussels (I'm trying to get him to sing like a canary, we'll see).
Cavatelli's is on a small block in the Roads at the very end of Coral Way, tucked in the middle between a cigar shop, an organic restaurant, and a bar. I have a feeling the usually empty sidewalk is going to become quite bustling in the next several months.
Stay tuned for an interview with the chefs as well as either the spinach gnocchi recipe or the secret to perfect mussels (I will get at least one out of them--mark my words).
Cavatelli Italian Trattoria
1246 Coral Way, Miami