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Timon Balloo on Bocce Bar: "I Have a Deep Infatuation With Italian Cuisine"

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Bocce Bar, forecast to open in late 2013, is designed to give Miami a bit of the dolce vita for which Italians are known.

Modeled after a traditional enoteca, the midtown Miami restaurant will feature an indoor/outdoor bar as a focal point. A counter will display a selection of house-made pastas, sauces, and prepared foods for take-out. And there will be a bocce court in the restaurant.

The cuisine, described as "modern Italian," will take cues from different cities Balloo has visited. "When I was in Italy last year, I was just leisurely absorbing the culture. There were so many things I loved -- I really don't want to get pigeonholed," he says.

More important to Balloo is capturing the spirit and soulfulness of the food. "There's so much history behind everything. Even a cup of espresso is done perfectly -- just so -- the way it's been done for decades, centuries. There's a pride in beautiful, handcrafted items. We have to respect the ingredients, but we'll also have a laid-back, rustic approach to dining."

Balloo explains he'll also borrow influences from the entire Mediterranean region, including North Africa, Spain, and Greece. "Part of the success of Sugarcane is that we are a little bit of everything to everyone."

To further his education in Italian cuisine, the chef will travel to Italy this month with the goal of eating around the boot as much as possible. "I'm going to Florence, Puglia, Naples, Rome, Sicily, and Sardinia. I want to learn and absorb what I can. I have a deep infatuation with Italian cuisine.

"Besides," he quips, "I'm half-Chinese. I guess we gave the Italians noodles. So that I have down solid."

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