A quaint little Italian eatery called Florette Café recently opened on Washington Avenue in South Beach (in the spot that Miss Saigon occupied until recently moving north a few blocks).
The name Florette, explains owner Francesca Cuccurullo, is a nickname her father used for her mother.
Cuccurullo worked at Spiga for 15 years and was the general manager for the past decade. Three weeks ago, she took the plunge with a place of her own.
"It's home cooking, mainly Italian. We make eggplant parmigiana, sometimes chicken Milanese, lasagna, canneloni..." With just ten seats inside and a few more at outside tables, Cuccurullo and her chef have a chance to prepare foods fresh to order. I had an excellent lunch there yesterday.
The menu contains a number of sandwiches, salads, and entrées, along with daily-changing specials. We skipped the soup of the day -- minestrone -- but a big, bright bowl of it went steaming past our table. We tried a daily special of delicate, delectable eggplant parmigiana.
Also sampled was a mortadella sandwich on ciabatta bread. The cold cut, imported from Bologna, was layered with lettuce, ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers. A chicken salad brought two moist, freshly cooked fillets of rosemary-marinated breast atop arugula and greens dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Apples, tomatoes, a perfectly ripe fan of avocado, and red onion were included in the composition. Sandwiches cost between $8 and $9; specials are $12 or $13. The concise menu might see some additions in the future; Italian desserts will be included very shortly.
Francesca, who is originally from a town just outside Genoa, says opening a restaurant is "something I've dreamed of my whole life."
The café is open 10 in the morning until 9 at night every day except Monday.
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540 Washington Ave., Miami Beach