Bocce Bar, the much-anticipated Italian concept from Samba Brands Management, opened this past Friday, and Short Order was invited for a taste.
The restaurant décor, in the former Sustain space in midtown, captures Italy's duality of clean, modern drama and classic, rustic style. A giant lit Bocce Bar sign welcomes patrons at street level. It's also the back of the bistro/enoteca's outdoor bocce court (so far, only a few people have taken the restaurant up on its offer to "eat, drink, play").
Chef Timon Ballo's menu is heavy on antipasti, salumi, and formaggi, encouraging Miamians to share food and conversation, which should be easily aided by a few barrel-aged Negronis created by Richard Woods, head of Samba Brands' spirit and cocktail development program.
Grilled treviso with shaved pecorino and fig balsamic is a wonderful alternative to a traditional salad. This Italian cousin of radicchio is slightly bitter and pairs well with the sweet balsamic and sharp cheese ($9).
Think of nduja as spreadable salami. This pork spread is a spicier alternative to pâté, served with giardiniera, marmalade, and Italian flatbread. It's one of several salumi offered on the menu ($7).
Ricotta di bufala, served with pumpkin and a generous portion of shaved truffle, is a "must have" on the formaggi menu.
Orecchiette with duck sugo and roasted butternut squash is rich and satisfying ($19).
Canneloni is multidimensional when stuffed with earthy wild mushrooms ($16).
Espresso panna cotta was a nice, light ending to a meal ($9).
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Honey crisp cannoli was a little busy. The small hand-rolled pastries were overshadowed by the stellar ice cream made with 25-year aged balsamic, which would have been satisfying on its own ($10).
Limoncello marshmallows are a sweet afterthought.