First Bites

Pane & Vino in South Beach: Try the Pear Stuffed Pasta

There are few dishes that I remember with such fondness as a pear stuffed pasta that I once enjoyed at a trendy restaurant in Barcelona. The sweetness paired with sharp cheese in its soft doughy casing left a lasting impression. Imagine my surprise when a similar dish appeared on the menu of a charming five-month-old Italian restaurant in the heart of Washington Avenue near Espanola Way and across the street from nightclubs and strip clubs.

It is very easy to miss Pane & Vino as you walk or drive by, but a theater-like display in the window of someone making fresh pasta may entice you. This restaurant takes a gamble by giving a prime seating area to this cooking display. It pays off. The adorable eatery has quotes and wine on the wall and a convenient collections of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper for each table. If you sit along the wall, expect yours in its own private table side shelf.

Before you delve into the large collection of handmade pastas, have a glass or two of vino. The wines by the glass are all in the $7-$8 range, with several bottles below $30!

For another pleasant surprise also start out with the Polpette di Angus ( $7), which has the description of" A nice surprise meat balls!!!" on the menu. If you are expecting a collection of balls in a red sauce, think again. One large baseball sized meatballs is in a brown sauce with cheese on top for a homey dish more reminiscent of meatballs and mashed potatoes.

It is the pasta section with a variety of shapes and sauces where this restaurant truly shines. Although, the Fiocchetti Pere e Parmigiano ($17) is the dish of my dream. It contains handmade pasta filled with pear and Parmesan cheese. The sauce has slivers of caramelized leek in a cream sauce that is bedazzled with black sesame seeds. On top of the nine pastas on the menu, expect a couple more specials. The night we dined at the place, there was pumpkin gnocchi and a pappardelle with lamb ragu and crispy artichokes.

This neighborhood Italian restaurant with fresh made pasta is a hidden gem in an odd part of South Beach, but it is a welcome addition to the land of mediocre tourist traps.

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Carina Ost