Lorenzo: Tony Mantuano's SoBe Restaurant Opens Today (We Get a First Bite)

Lorenzo, chef Tony Mantuano's casual-classic Italian restaurant opens for dinner today at the soon-to-open Redbury hotel on South Beach. Mantuano is the chef/partner of Chicago's Michelin-starred Spiaggia restaurant, along with restaurateur Larry Levy. The team has partnered again with Lorenzo.

The restaurant is located in the lobby of the Redbury South Beach hotel, at 1776 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Formerly the Fairfax, this art deco gem is scheduled to reopen December 1, 2013 -- just in time for Art Basel.

The restaurant's decor of brown leather, wood, and chrome compliments the original seafoam terrazzo flooring and giant pillars. A large bar welcomes guests to the side of the room, while a espresso and gelato bar temps people with a little on-the-go pick-me up.

Up a few grand stairs lies an open kitchen, its focal point a Ferrari-red wood-burning oven imported from Tuscany. Slightly out of view of diners is a curious machine. It's a pizza dough mixer, two robotic hands gently kneading and working the dough to perfection. Mantuano quips, "You could buy a Fiat or make dough".

When asked why he chose Miami Beach to open Lorenzo, Mantuano told Short Order that all the cards were on the table for this venture. "This was all about the situation being perfect. My business partner was developing this building. He loves Italian food and comes into Cafe Spiaggia every day that he's in town. He wanted great Italian food in South Beach. I told him, I'll do it, but I'm not going to change. We're going to do what we've been doing for 29 years. We do great, authentic food, and that means a wood-burning oven, pizzette, hand-made pasta, great gelato and espresso. All the hallmarks of great Italian. We have a A great wine list written by Cathy (Mantuano). We don't want to change because we're in South Beach. I couldn't represent what we've done for 29 years that way, and I couldn't represent the country of Italy that way. It's about everything being right. About everything lining up."

When pressed, Mantuano did find he made a few concessions to South Beach. "OK. We put star fruit in the gelato." There's also grapefruit and Meyer lemon, too.

Lorenzo's kitchen will be overseen by executive chef James Versfelt, with cocktails created by mixologist Michael Jack Pazdon of Napa Valley's Goose & Gander. Wine director (and wife of the chef/partner) Cathy Mantuano puts a spotlight on Italian wines, with over 100 bottles and over two dozen wines available by the glass. The Mantuanos invited Short Order to try a few items. Here's what we sampled (prices when available).

Local mahi is smoked and served as a fish dip.

Lorenzo's caprese salad is made with local heirloom tomatoes, and campari tomatoes lightly blanched in sugar ($15).

Floridian wild boar compliments this house made gnocchi ($26).

Giant prawns are flown in from Nigeria, then finished simply.

Spaghetti a la Nadia has just five ingredients. The secret to the flavor is the marriage of sauce and pasta ($20).

An assortment of house-made gelatos and sorbets.

Cannolis are made to order.

Lorenzo is open nightly for dinner from 6 p.m. - midnight; and will open for lunch and late night dining in about two weeks.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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