Chefs

La Bottega in Coconut Grove: Igor Ferraro's Homemade Squid Ink Pasta and Basil Gelato

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La Bottega, which boasts an open kitchen and wine bar, comes courtesy of the folks behind Taurus and Calamari and is nestled between both restaurants. Grab a seat in the courtyard, the white-table-clothed dining room, or the rustic wine bar, featuring wooden tables and proffering bottles of wine and other Italian delights. The last is also where La Bottega hosts cooking and wine classes, wine-pairing dinners, and winetastings. Join the La Cava wine club and receive admission for you and a guest to most classes and events, as well as complimentary use of the underground wine cellar -- the perfect location for a special event or occasion. Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., all wines and appetizers are half off.

As far as the food, La Bottega's menu is just half the equation. Take recommendations from the chef and allow Ferraro to do his thing with whatever he has fresh that day. An active boater, Ferraro loves the ocean. "My favorite thing to cook is fish," he says. "But you know, everyone loves pasta."

If you can't decide what to order or you salivate when the chef visits your table to tell you his specials for the day, go for the tasting menu. At $49 per person for seven small dishes, it's a steal. It also comes with a side of Ferraro personally explaining each course.

The chef started us out with a little polipo, or octopus. Boiled to tender perfection, it shares the plate with cherry tomatoes, taggiasche olives, potatoes, and capers. The whole thing is seasoned with nothing but sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. A full serving of the dish would be double the portion size (maybe more) and cost $16.

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Carla Torres found her inner gourmand voice while writing for Miami New Times in 2012. She has also worked with Travel & Leisure and Ocean Drive. She balances passions for wine, sweets, yoga, and kayaking.