Restaurant Reviews

Siena Tavern: Fabio Viviani's New South Beach Spot Is Solid, But Could Be More

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The fare here could be called a survey of Italian cuisine. There's a bit of every part of the boot. Along with the pizza and pasta are salads, a selection of cheese and cured meats, a brief list of appetizers, a mozzarella bar, and seven substantial main plates.

The sole problem: Too many such menus exist in Miami and South Beach. Siena Tavern sits atop the pack of identical, nonspecific Italian restaurants.

It's often repeated that in Miami Beach, restaurants must be everything to everyone in order to pay the bills. However, in recent years, the island has seen the birth of tightly focused, ingredient-driven menus (the Dutch, Macchialina, Lucali) that have been successful without following the old mantras. Siena Tavern could be one of them. Viviani, who wouldn't divulge the space's rent, says he's not in business to feed his ego, even though he has the ability to both craft dishes and offer service far above the competition's.

Such is evident in a pair of plates that smartly employ the toothsome grain farro. In an appetizer, it's cooled and combined with succulent Key West pink shrimp, delicate squid pieces, roasted red pepper, celery crescents, and torn basil. A tangy vinaigrette made of mustard, grapefruit juice, and honey adds just enough acid to complement the seafood and brighten the earthy kernels. Later, a mound of warmed farro risotto studded with meaty oyster mushrooms and sweet sun-dried tomato slivers props up a succulent lamb shank that's braised in veal stock for at least 12 hours. It's a lighter way to enjoy osso buco without feeling bad about savoring the glorious, gelatinous marrow hiding inside each bone.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson