Tom Colicchio's new Bravo series saw 16 restaurants, five of them Miami-area establishments, face off in the past two months. Although our local restaurants, including Tongue & Cheek, the Federal Food Drink & Provisions, Buns & Buns, and R House represented the 305 well, there could be only two restaurants in the finals.
South Beach's Dolce Italian faced off against New York City's L'Apicio, with the winning restaurant receiving $100,000, a feature in Bon Appétit magazine, and the title of Best New Restaurant.
To put a different spin on the proceedings, each restaurant team was flown in to dine at the competitor's location. When the L'Apicio team walked into Dolce, co-owner Joe Campanale was blown away, calling the restaurant "beautiful." The food received the same praise, with the octopus and lemon risotto getting a particularly warm reaction.
When the Dolce team hit the Big Apple to visit L'Apicio, the team loved the market apple salad and the pasta, which they described as "awesome and spicy." The olive oil cake was "crazy good" as well. However, the octopus was too chewy.
All in all, the restaurants were an even match, as Tom Colicchio noted when he announced the final challenge: prepare a four-course dinner for 50 diners. Each restaurant would be judged on food and service for an all-around experience. The dinner guests included editors from Bon Appétit, restaurateurs, and the Best New Restaurant judges Tm Colicchio, 'Wichcraft partner Jeffrey Zurofsky, and BlackboardEats editor in chief Maggie Nemser.
Dolce's menu concentrated on modern takes on traditional Italian dishes, such as squid ink sepia, duck and foie gras agnolotti, and braised veal cheeks. L'Apicio's menu included a duck confit salad, garganelli, and roast chicken.
The dinner service started out strong flavor-wise for Dolce, but its ace in the hole, Dean Tsakanikas, was helping executive chef Paolo Dorigato in the kitchen and was missed. Meanwhile, L'Apicio's service was on point, though the food was uneven.
After Tom looked for Dean in the kitchen, the masterful Dolce general manager took the hint and resumed front-of-house duties. That gave Dolce the advantage, with the restaurant ultimately won the competition.
Here's the winning moment:
John Meadow, founder of LDV Hospitality (which owns Dolce Italian), is pleased his restaurant took home the honors and title of Best New Restaurant. "What was so special about the premise of the show is that, unlike the vast majority of television shows and media awareness centered solely around the chefs of restaurants, Best New Restaurant showcases the human reality that the restaurant business really is a group effort, and therefore truly portrays the emotional ups and downs of the restaurant professionals' experience.
"To just have been a part of that was exciting unto itself. To have won the competition and show America what our Dolce Italian team and entire LDV family is all about is truly rewarding and a testament to the character, professionalism, and — most of all — the passion of all of our employees in the trenches and managers and chefs that lead them, and they deserve the recognition."
Dolce will celebrate its win (and awesome title) by offering a special tasting menu featuring dishes inspired by the show. And now, more than ever, Miamians can proudly proclaim we have the best new restaurant. Bravo!
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