The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans take home 24 percent of all national income, own 40 percent of the country's total wealth, and are most likely to be seen dining in any restaurant where Jeff O'Neill is the chef.
O'Neill, who cut his chops in the masterful New York City kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert, has in recent years plumped the wealthy at L'Escalier at the Breakers Hotel, at Mar-a-Lago by Donald T., and now at the Villa by Barton G. (in Casa Casuarina by Gianni V.). A stint in between at the more pedestrian Gibraltar at Grove Isle has been all but excised from O'Neill's resumé, yet that's where he first gained notice among Miami diners for his bold style of cooking. He replaced Justin Albertson at the Villa in August 2010, shortly after we last reviewed the restaurant.
Casuarina was of course closed to the public after Gianni Versace purchased it as his home in 1992. But since Barton G. Weiss took over the property in early 2010, the Bastille-like entry gates have been opened to the 99 percent -- if mainly for those special-occasion meals that comprise about 1 percent of our dining experiences.
Yes, the Villa is quite expensive; it would be inappropriate if it were not. Can you imagine walking into a palatial setting, through an opulent lobby, past a seductive lounge of nostalgic splendor called the Moroccan Room, into an intimate dining area with walls of pebble mosaics imported from Spain and a frescoed ceiling and Versace-designed Rosenthal china -- and then being handed a laminated menu of affordable burgers, pastas, and salads? Well, thankfully, Weiss has pictured things a little differently.
Read the full review of the Villa by Barton G. here.