First Bites

Serafina Opens in Miami Beach

Serafina, the Italian restaurant chain that dominates New York City with its signature yellow and blue logo, has opened its first Miami location in the former Tudor House space at the Dream South Beach hotel.

The restaurant, which has ten locations in Manhattan, East Hampton, White Plains, and Philadelphia in addition to outposts in Dubai, Moscow, Tokyo, and Mumbai, is owned by Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, who opened their first location, a pizzeria, in New York City in 1995. The restaurants are generally well-located, colorful, and serve moderately priced pizzas and pastas.  Serafina Miami is keeping with this formula. A cheery yellow Vespa at the hostess desk greets you upon arrival, and murals of wings and hands grace the walls inside.

I was invited to try out some items and was greeted by an animated server who reminded me of a recent trip to Italy. I had eaten several times at New York Serafina locations, mostly at office lunches or girl-group get-togethers, so was familiar with their pizza and pasta-centric menu. Assaf and Granato, the owners, were on hand and were quick to explain the various dishes, touting the merits of each one, as if talking about a favorite child.

Portions are generous, maybe too generous, so order accordingly. Each item, especially the prosciutto ($17), flown in three times a week from Parma, Italy, and served with imported Italian buffalo mozzarella, could have easily been shared by four people -- I had the same experience in Naples, when I ordered this dish as a simple starter and was presented with a large tray of the thinly sliced meat.

Pizza tartufo nero features sliced black truffles. Yes, truffles are overplayed at most restaurants, but think of this as a high-octane mushroom pizza and forget about the obvious "trendiness" factor ($29).

Branzino ceviche ($13), made with a tequila marinade, papaya and mango, may not be very Italian, but it was a fresh and cool transition between the heavier pizza and pasta courses.

What Miami restaurant has Kim Kardashian not been to? Apparently, the reality diva also enjoyed a steaming plate of this farfalle al limoncello ($17.50), served with baby shrimp.

Branzino, baked simply with lemon and rosemary, is served over a bed of roasted peperonato ($28).

Yes, the meal is expansive, but there's always room for an affogato, especially when it's served with a shot of Patron Cafe to throw into the glass ($8).

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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