Major Food Group Opens Contessa in Design District

Contessa offers Northern Italian cuisine and an "emergency" Aperol spritz
Contessa offers Northern Italian cuisine and an "emergency" Aperol spritz Photo courtesy of Major Food Group
Major Food Group (MFG), the restaurant group that has been on a growth spree since opening Carbone in Miami in early 2021, is now opening another Italian restaurant.

But Contessa, which opens in the Design District on Friday, pulls its influence from a completely different region than Carbone, says MFG partner Mario Carbone. "I think they're as different as they can be while still being Italian. Carbone celebrates the Italian food born in America, with roots in Southern Italy. Contessa is very much inverse, with a menu that celebrates Northern Italy," says Carbone.

This is the second Contessa for MFG. The original opened inside the Newbury Boston hotel in June 2021. Carbone says that when the restaurant opened in Boston, they decided it would have the same experiential and quality level as Carbone and "the Major Food Group theatrical thing" but would also be open the entire day, unlike Carbone, which is open only for dinner. "The menu is really well-rounded," says Carbone. "You'll find antipasti, a salumi section of items indigenous to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, pizzas, and pastas." The pizzas and pastas also will reflect the northern regions of Italy with plenty of egg noodles, handmade pastas, and thin, crisp pizzas.

Main dishes will offer a selection of meats and fishes, including Florentine-style beef offerings. Carbone describes a rosemary-scented steal charred over a wood-burning grill and a ribeye, thinly sliced and served with a salad of arugula, tomato, and parmigiana cheese.

Desserts, says Carbone, are simple. "There's a homemade gelato program, a crostata del giorno, and a chocolate hazelnut cake," he says.

The restaurant's wine program, created by MFG's wine director John Slover will focus on wines from Northern and Central Italy. Bar director Nathan McCarley O'Neill has developed a cocktail list of classic spritzes, bellinis, negronis, and martinis.

Carbone says Contessa is designed to be an integral part of the Design District experience, and the MFG cofounder envisions the restaurant as part of a perfect Miami day. "The idea is that you're shopping in the District and stopping for lunch. We want Contessa to be that anchor. An all-day trattoria."  Evenings, says Carbone, will likely mean that reservations are necessary. "I see people popping into Contessa for an emergency Aperol spritz, but at night there might need to be planning in advance."

This isn't the first Design District restaurant for Major Food Group — but it is the first one where everyone can dine. The restaurant group owns ZZ's Club, a private lounge and sushi restaurant in the same plaza. Major Food Group has been on a growth spurt in South Florida, opening high-profile establishments such as Carbone, Sadelle's, HaSalon, ZZ's Club, Dirty French steakhouse, and several restaurants at the Boca Raton hotel, including the Japanese Bocce Club, in less than two years.

Carbone says that Miami's response to the restaurants has been "overwhelming" to the restaurateurs. "We were relatively familiar with Miami from being here in our 20s and 30s, but the positivity has been palpable. It makes Miami feel very much like our home."

Contessa. 111 NE 41st St., Miami; Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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