Miami Spice

Miami Spice 2017: Cecconi's Offers Pizza, Pasta, and the Best Vegan Chocolate Tart

Buffalo mozzarella pizzetta
Buffalo mozzarella pizzetta Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
click to enlarge Cecconi's idyllic courtyard. - PHOTO BY VALERIA NEKHIM LEASE
Cecconi's idyllic courtyard.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
Miami Spice gives locals something to get excited about during the hot and humid months of August and September. This year, Cecconi's Miami Beach is offering a prix-fixe Spice menu for lunch ($25) and dinner ($39) seven days a week. Despite the less than perfect weather conditions, Cecconi's outdoor courtyard tucked away inside Soho Beach House is always just the right temperature (guests can also dine indoors). Once the sun sets, the twinkle lights transform the boho glam Italian eatery into one of the most romantic dinner destinations in town.

New Times was invited to sample the three-course Spice menu, which begins with a bonus small bite known as a cicchetti in Italian. It will change daily, but during our visit, it was a tostada topped with a bean purée, seared tuna, and slices of avocado drizzled in olive oil. It was a lovely start to a delicious meal.

Whereas some restaurants participating in Miami Spice serve dishes that aren't on their regular menus, Cecconi's has chosen to offer customer favorites. There are three appetizer choices: vitello tonnato, buffalo mozzarella pizzetta, and a little gem salad with radishes and green goddess dressing. We opted for the first two offerings.
click to enlarge Buffalo mozzarella pizzetta - PHOTO BY VALERIA NEKHIM LEASE
Buffalo mozzarella pizzetta
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
The thin pizza didn't skimp on cheese, and the crust was just right. Meanwhile, the vitello tonnato, a popular Northern Italian starter featuring cold veal in a creamy tuna sauce, was tasty and well balanced. As for main courses, there are three options: branzino with cherry tomatoes and olives; bucatini with clams, bottarga, and tomato; and chicken paillard topped with an eggplant caponata.
click to enlarge Bucatini with clams, bottarga and roasted tomatoes. - PHOTO BY VALERIA NEKHIM LEASE
Bucatini with clams, bottarga and roasted tomatoes.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
Honestly, what's not to love about perfectly cooked bucatini noodles, fresh clams, and sweet roasted cherry tomatoes? Don't worry if you're not a fan of bottarga (cured fish roe), because in this pasta, it adds just a subtle hint of saltiness that's very pleasant. Something also worth noting is this dish comes in the standard portion size, not a smaller Spice size.

If you like branzino, Cecconi's version is crisp on the outside and delicate on the inside. It's paired with sautéed spinach, olives, and roasted cherry tomatoes. There's nothing to add or take away from this flavorful entrée.

Dessert brings only one option: a vegan chocolate tart with a raspberry sorbet. Not a vegan? Don't worry — this tart is shockingly creamy and delicious, and not just for a vegan dessert, but for any dessert. For extra oomph, it's sprinkled with coconut shavings and cacao nibs.
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Valeria Nekhim was born in the Ukraine and raised in Montreal. She has lived in Manhattan and Miami. Her favorite part of food writing is learning the stories of chefs and restaurateurs.