Food News

La Divina, Miami's First Gastroclub, to be Helmed by Cycling Chef Aleric "AJ" Constantin

Miami is all about the gastropubs but what about gastroclubs? The city will have its first when La Divina Gastro Club opens in the former Kukaramakara space in Brickell (1250 S. Miami Ave.) in just a couple of weeks.

At its helm is Aleric "AJ" Constantin. You might know him as many things: avid cyclist, cycling chef of Sear'N Gears, Eating House, Michael's Genuine, Proper Sausages, and Vagabond alum. But now he's stepping into the big time in his first executive chef role.

"In a nutshell it's a gastroclub where you can come for late-night dinner service and to party," says Constantin. "The concept and focus of the menu is very small Latin influence and Italian tapas."

Constantin says he's excited to explore his Cuban-Italian roots. "My grandmother migrated to Cuba, but she was taught Italian cuisine from her family, and then added her own Cuban feel to it. That really had an impact during my upbringing."

As for the menu, rest assured it won't be cliché. "I'm going both old and new world." Think pre and post spice trade. "Lots of Mediterranean, Greek, and Ancient Roman influences." So, a lot of ancestral grains while still focusing on technique and various Latin influences given the owners are Colombian and his fellow chefs range from Honduras to Venezuela.

It was actually former colleague and co-owner of Eating House and of the soon to open Bachour Bakery + Bistro Henry Hane (who who was hired for menu consulting and brought Constantin on. "He conceptualized on the base menu and I elaborated from there." Expect dishes like gnocchi a la huancaina, eggplant parmesan croquetas, Peruvian caprese salad with aji amarillo and burrata, and whole market fish done differently. "Simple plates but extreme execution and quality of product is what we're going for."

At first Costantin will work with a "very wholesome purveyor" with the goal of then moving more toward local farms and even growing things himself in his backyard garden he's been tending for years. "We want to transition into charcuterie presentation and are already transitioning into doing our own sausage with arepa."

"The feel and vibe is going to be very edgy with a kind of illuminati-esque refined feel to it." Lots of Italian renaissance and medieval influences within the décor and artwork. "A high-end establishment for Brickell's finest."

And since Brickell's finest are predominantly Latin America's wealthiest (prices will range from $6 for smaller plates to $30 for larger items and whole market fish), they'll have a chance to pop bottles and drink and dance into the wee hours of the nights. While hours aren't set in stone yet, it seems though dinner service will run from 6 p.m. to midnight and then kick into a bar bite menu till 2 a.m. during the week and 5 a.m. on weekends.

As for the drinks, the mixologist who's been hired is apparently one of Colombia's finest and up and coming barkeeps. We'll update as get more info.

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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.