First Bites

Cara Mia Showcases Miami's Seasonal Produce Through Italian Fare

click to enlarge COURTESY OF CARA MIA
Courtesy of Cara Mia
Cara Mia, a trattoria in South Beach, believes the finest things in life are the simplest. Since 2013, the restaurant has built a loyal following by serving authentic Italian cuisine built on only a few ingredients.

This past February, owner Luigi Coppolino partnered with two Italian restaurateurs — Paolo Giurato and Luciano Maddii.

Maddii, a self-taught chef who goes by the nickname "Frasca," has owned eateries in Italy, Monte Carlo, and Coconut Grove. At Cara Mia, he changes the menu regularly to show off Miami's seasonal produce.

"We are here to give customers what we know and make it better," says Giurato, a former manager at La Locanda on Washington Avenue who has been in the food business for the past 40 years.

Most nights, the trio tours Cara Mia's dining room to greet customers and suggest plates such as the baccalá alla livornese, battered salt cod served in a rich tomato sauce covered with chopped parsley ($31); or the orecchia d'elefante, a thinly breaded veal chop served with vegetables ($38). Comfort comes in a large bowl of zuppa di mare alla livornese, a fragrant seafood stew that pairs perfectly with freshly baked focaccia ($31).

Other standouts include fettuccine con bottarga with diced tomatoes and garlic oil ($36); a beach-inspired  carbonara served with shrimp, calamari, and clams ($28); and a four-course seafood chef's selection for $60.

Heartier items are the polenta tartufata ai ragu, a yellow-cream truffle polenta with fish, meat, or Gorgonzola sauce ($20 and up); and a massive steak Florentine ($45). Alternatively, keep it light with shrimp carpaccio garnished with pomegranate seeds ($16).

The flowery courtyard is an ideal place for dessert, such as tiramisu with strawberries ($9) or Belgian dark chocolate mousse ($8).

Cara Mia offers plenty of Italian wine, including Nero d'Avola from Sicily ($49), Stralunato ($69), and Dolce Amore from Tuscany ($52). A glass costs between $8 and $11.

Cara Mia Trattoria. 1040 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 305-397-8624; Dinner daily 5 to 11 p.m.