Siena Tavern Miami opens to the public Monday, November 10, at 6 p.m., and the hotly anticipated outpost of Siena Tavern in Chicago, helmed by former Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani, is gaining buzz before the first diner chows down on the restaurant's social-media-savvy (and savory) meatball.
But what's behind the restaurant that's taken over the expansive China Grill space in South Beach? A masculine decor inspired by small Italian cafés and airplanes, a cocktail menu by-the-numbers created by Bar Lab, and a special beer by Wynwood Brewing inspired by the restaurant's flavors.
David Rekhson, Siena Tavern partner, took me on an exclusive tour of the restaurant to explain everything.
The restaurant is a hub of activity before it even opens. Although about 99 percent complete, with staff trained for a staggering seven weeks (each having to pass a multiple-page written exam before being allowed to meet one single guest), tweaks are still being made as we navigate around chefs, servers, and designers.
The hostess stand features large doors that could easily have come from a Tuscan estate. Rekhson explains they're actually antiques from New Orleans but were inspired by a trip to Italy during which the Siena Tavern partner found himself obsessively photographing the massive entryways of old villas.
Siena Tavern boasts two bars. The larger, main bar accommodates up to 100 guests and features a mural painted by local artist Solo. The restaurant has partnered with Bar Lab to offer a series of libations, identified simply by numbers. Bartender Duke Ross is "superexcited" about the creations and suggests trying #9, a mixture of sage, tequila, cucumber, and lime, or #8, made with Ancho Reyes, rum, and lime juice.
Also noteworthy is the exclusive Siena Tavern Brew, made for the restaurant by Wynwood Brewing Company. Rekhson, a fan of the brewery, says working with the Brignoni family was a pleasure. "I was there for about 30 hours and drank so much beer I had to take a cab back." The special Siena Tavern beer is brewed with peppercorn, anise, and basil to complement the restaurant's pizzas and pastas.
A smaller, crudo bar invites guests to have a Peroni and some crudo. Seafood varieties include ahi tuna, oysters, hamachi, swordfish, bay scallops, and fluke. The restaurant also makes its own mozzarella.
Pizzas arrive hot from a wood-fired oven. Varieties include margherita, caramelized Brussels sprouts, burnt pepperoni, cinque formaggio, prosciutto pear, carne, and truffle mushroom. In fact, white or black truffles can be shaved on any pie for market price.
The main dining room is decorated in earth tones, accented by hints of aqua to reflect the ocean just a few blocks away. Rekhson explains the hint of color also mirrors the very heart of Siena Tavern Miami. "It's 80 percent Siena Tavern with 20 percent Miami. We always knew we were going to open a restaurant in Miami, and we looked at many different spaces, but we fell in love with this space and we wanted to make it someplace where locals can feel at home."
The restaurant also features a separate private dining room, complete with a bar and A/V system, perfect for that Christmas party you're planning.
Siena Tavern will be open for dinner daily at 6 p.m. beginning November 10. Brunch service will begin in December, followed by lunch shortly thereafter.