Thea Pizzeria: Hospital Area's Cafe for Lunch

At Thea Pizzeria and Café, rays of sunlight filter through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. They warm the petite 38-seat café and illuminate scattered pizzas sprinkled with emerald leaves of baby arugula. Across from the window, a 30-square-foot, 210,000-piece glass mosaic mural made in Italy by luxury design brand Bisazza depicts pastel-hued peonies, roses, and daffodils. Luminous streams bounce from the gleaming mosaic onto several copper pendant Tom Dixon-like lamps suspended over sleek black tables and chairs. At the cozy restaurant, which opened in September, the music ranges from Etta James's "At Last" to Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You." The pungent aroma of truffle oil wafts from the kitchen into the chic dining area.

Despite the setting, there aren't many poised, middle-aged ladies decked out in designer garb and Tory Burch flats while lunching on overpriced Cobb salads. No one is conversing about the latest art auction fundraiser or showing off iPad photos of their well-groomed children. There are no exorbitantly priced dishes either. The costliest platter is seared salmon, topped with a slightly astringent lemon-caper sauce and paired with a refreshing white bean and red onion salad for just $16.

Thea Pizzeria isn't located in the newly ritzy Design District or artsy Wynwood. It's in Allapattah -- an area west of I-95 better known for medical centers than eateries. The restaurant is situated inside the University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park.

In some ways, the café feels like the ideal location for ladies who lunch. The menu lists niçoise salad and chicken paillard. Roasted beets and toasted walnuts are as prominent here as oregano shakers at a run-of-the-mill pizza joint. Furnishings are charming, and the eatery makes a mean espresso (which is served with a bitty piece of chocolate chip biscotti).

But Thea avoids the stereotype. The eatery forgoes high prices, pretentiousness, or any sort of shyness about its undisguised femininity. It's a casual place, ideal for gents who appreciate a cornichon-studded charcuterie platter and ladies who love arugula.

Read the full review for Thea Pizzeria here.

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