As soon as you sit down at Naked Taco in South Beach, a bubbly waiter toting a frosty shaker measures out two grapefruit-tequila shots in heavy, preplaced glasses. "You have to be a little mad to have fun with us," he says while shaking out the last drops of the precious nectar.
Maybe you're mad. But you wouldn't have to be crazy to like the Pink Tuna ($14), a tongue-in-cheek reference to the lower half of the female anatomy. After all, what could be so bad about bright-red cubes of rare tuna, avocado, mango, and a spicy soy ginger glaze?
Ralph Pagano, longtime owner of Alba Seaside Italian in Sunny Isles Beach, opened Naked Taco in the Dream South Beach during this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival, taking over the space most recently occupied by New York Italian restaurant Serafina.
It's an ode to Pagano's longtime love affair with Mexico and South Beach in all its tacky, oversexed glory. The main logo appears to be a black-and-white portrait of the bottom of a woman's face with lips highlighted candy-apple red. Pressed against them is a long red chili pepper dripping red paint.
A painting of a naked woman with an eerie, skeleton-like Santa Muerte face and a body full of tattoos is sprawled out above the bar inside the restaurant.
All of this would be a joke if the $6 tacos weren't delicious. A duck taco matches crisp chicharrones with fatty shredded meat that inspires you to instantly order another. A fried fish taco offers a satisfying crunch with flaky, light meat and not a hint of extra grease. Lamb barbecue-style is spicier than expected, but a flavorful chili punch is tempered by mint yogurt that mingles perfectly with medium-rare slices of the flavorful meat.
Margaritas are strong, frosty, and well balanced. On Tuesdays, one of the $10 drinks comes with a free taco. For lightweights, this can be dangerous. A free shot, a stiff drink, and only one taco may have you smashed before your Mexican pizza ($12) arrives with black beans sandwiched between two 12-inch tortillas and topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, and red enchilada sauce.
The only challenge that remains is remembering that your jalapeño-infused margarita is a cocktail, not a dipping sauce. However, if a triangle of that pizza made it into your drink, no one would blame you. After all, you're in Miami, bitch.