Frugal diners who crave Italy's signature simple yet perfect sun-intensified fresh fish and vegetable flavors are in luck at casually stylish Specchio Cafe, which comes about as close as one can get in Miami to the authentic Italian dining experience. Try the grigliata di vegetali, not quite in the ripeness league as what one would find in Italy but still absolutely scrumptious — because, for a change, the grilled seasonal vegetables actually taste grilled instead of merely looking it. Also reliably excellent are all three carpaccio appetizers; the fresh pea soup, a must-not-miss if it's on the menu; and the linguinei alle vongole, whose light but satisfyingly garlic/wine/oil sauce is packed with tender baby clams.
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From virtually my first stroll down Ocean Drive in the early Nineties, it was apparent that one of the main foreign languages being spoken was Italian, and the stroll back up Collins and Washington avenues, past designer emporiums, ...