Nestled in the heart of downtown Coral Gables is the ivy-covered Hotel St. Michel, one of Miami’s most historic hotels. Built in 1926, the building still boasts the same vintage European design, reflecting the chic and dashing clientele of that era. In 2017, the inn is adding a dining venue to breathe new life into the charming boutique property.
Opened earlier this week, Zucca is a casual fine-dining restaurant and mixology bar specializing in classic Italian cuisine. The eatery is the brainchild of the Venezuelan hospitality duo Keiny and Erasmo Da Silva of Da Silva Hospitality Group. Already holding elite status in the dining industry, the group will finally open its first restaurant in the States after more than 60 years in business.
Erasmo Da Silva is building on his father’s legacy by expanding beyond Venezuela and saw Miami as the ideal locale for the group's first U.S. venture.
“We have had our eye on the Miami market for a long time and patiently waited for the right space and concept before launching our first restaurant,” Erasmo Da Silva says. “Miami made a lot of sense for a number of reasons. First, there are a lot of Venezuelans who know and love us from our restaurants in Caracas who now live in Miami.”
Daniel Levine, president of Leviathan Hospitality and budding Miami restaurateur, was charged with handpicking the next great bite for Hotel St. Michel. “Zucca is the perfect restaurant to round out Coral Gables’ casual fine-dining ecosystem,” Levine says. “With restaurants like Bulla, Hillstone, and Swine, diners now have options representing a wider range of cuisines where they can get high-quality food and service in a more comfortable atmosphere.”
Zucca’s pared-down, classic cuisine will appeal to diners who enjoy the comfort of affordably priced Italian fare in a relaxed yet upscale atmosphere. The menu highlights classics while delicately introducing distinct flavors for a modern twist. Begin with a charcuterie board with fresh-sliced prosciutto and other meats ($26). For dinner, there is no shortage of pasta, with dishes such as linguine with Sardinian bottarga ($21) and mezze lune di asparagi — half-moon-shaped ravioli stuffed with asparagus and served in a cherry tomato sauce ($21). Carnivores can try the bistecca alla fiorentina — a 32-ounce T-bone steak dry-aged for 21 days ($79 for two).
Zucca’s bar is well stocked with copper tools lining a white marble bartop standing in front of a glass-enclosed, 1,000-bottle wine cellar. The hip cocktail program, curated by the mixology wizards of Cocktail Cartel, employs fresh herbs, top-shelf spirits, and an inventive lineup of specialty cocktails ($13). Some of these imaginative concoctions include Nonna’s Mule, made with Gra’it grappa, lemongrass, ginger, grapefruit soda, and a dehydrated lime wheel; Fifty Sage of Grey, containing vodka, Earl Grey tea, sage, and citrus and topped with yuzu tonic; and the Fiori di Sicilia, a take on the old-fashioned, with Rebel Yell bourbon, spiced vanilla cordial, Xocolatl mole, and Angostura bitters.
“Italy has a strong cocktail culture with a long history that hasn’t really been explored yet in Miami, and we look forward to putting that on full display at the Zucca Bar,” Levine says.
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Realizing the vision of both Da Silva Hospitality and Hotel St. Michel did not come without modifications to the space. The majority of the hotel’s ground floor, which houses the eatery, was significantly updated from its eclectic Victorian style to a more contemporary aesthetic.
“The contemporary look of the restaurant complements the changes to the hotel and signals a new era for St. Michel,” the hotel's owner, Stuart Bornstein, says. “The hotel is now turning to a more contemporary feel, overlaying contemporary values on top of the historical values. The lobby, hallways, and several rooms were completed before the restaurant renovations begun and will continue as the restaurant develops. Obviously, the new restaurant will provide a wonderful addition to the hotel experience.”
Hotel St. Michel, 162 Alcazar Ave., Coral Gables; 786-580-3731; hotelstmichel.com/restaurant.html. Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday and Monday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.