Coral Gables has a bevy of options when it comes to food and drink, so it's an ideal area to open a European-style wine bar.
Hidden among the shops along Miracle Mile is the intimately sized Uvaggio. Past a small entry that can easily be overlooked, there it sits, dimly lit yet welcoming.
This new restaurant has styled itself as wine-driven because the menu was created with the elixir of the gods in mind. The team selects small-production wines using its understanding of the aromas, flavors, and textures. The menu items come next. They call this process "tasting backwards."
The Uvaggio team consists of three all-star players: owner Craig DeWald, sommelier Heath Porter, and former Top Chef contestant Bret Pelaggi. Each has a role to play and does so beautifully.
During Short Order's visit, DeWald manned the bar and poured wine for guests, Pelaggi worked his magic in the kitchen, and Porter ensured we were properly wined and dined. We were told to select a few menu items and he would then arrange them to arrive in order from lightest to heaviest, as well as bring an appropriate wine pairing.
The four-page menu highlights the variety of available wines and wine-inspired cocktails and separates just half a page for the food items. Though they don't offer an overwhelming amount of dishes, what is available is a perfect complement to the wine selection. The servings are proportionate and satisfying.
Uvaggio takes the concept of a wine bar very seriously. So much so, in fact, that the cocktails aren't mixed with liquor but instead are concocted with wine. Porter first brought out a Pete Rose ($12), made with Lillet rosé, crème de péche, and strawberry nectar and garnished with a raspberry and a fresh basil leaf. The cocktail was a little on the flat side and took some stirring before the flavors could be excited.
We ordered as a starter the salt cod croquetas ($5), which the menu states pair best with the Gingie (prosecco and ginger syrup, $10). Before we could even say the words, Porter was placing a fizzling drink in front of us and dropping in a cube of ginger for full effect. He explained he got the idea for the Gingie while at a party in Hawaii when he dropped a slice of ginger into his glass of prosecco -- and we are so glad he did. It's sweet, it's fizzy, it's tangy, and it's utterly refreshing.
Next up, the cheese plate ($15). After all, what's a proper glass of Riesling without cheese? This plate features a slice of goat cheese, blue cheese, and Brie along with some black truffle honey, guava paste, and pear apple chutney, all delicately arranged with crackers. Don't be afraid to spread some of the black truffle honey on any of the cheese options or combine a guava cube with blue cheese on a cracker.
The moment our wine glass was empty, Porter quickly cleared it away and delivered a fresh bottle of Stift Gottweig pink wine, which he promised would complement the next dish beautifully. The octopus "naranja agria" ($16) is served with papas bravas and spiced with Spanish paprika and ají amarillo. We were encouraged to take a bite of the potatoes with every bite of octopus.
Porter told us how the Stift Gottweig Rose of Pinot Noir was made at a 1,000-year-old monastery, and a joke he likes to use with his staff is: "If all altar wines tasted like this, I'd go to church a heckuva lot more!"
With our next dish, Porter mixed things up and brought out a bottle of red Mormoraia Chianti Colli Senesi to pair with the delectable veal sweetbreads ($16). The mixture of potato gnocchi, beech mushrooms, and broccolini was warm and rich-tasting. The red wine certainly added to warming up our bellies.
Finally came the heaviest meal: duck confit ($15) served on a bed of mascarpone polenta with arugula. Duck always has a distinct and memorable taste, but Pelaggi's duck confit is the stuff dreams are made of. This dish was paired with a rich red Pinot Noir, Besson Givry.
After tasting our way through Uvaggio's main menu, we ended the evening with a sampling of the dessert menu.
A trio of chocolate truffles ($8) includes white chocolate with Grand Marnier, mango, and pistachio; milk chocolate Chambord covered in chopped almonds; and dark chocolate dusted with espresso and chili pepper.
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The cinnamon bun bread pudding ($8) is drizzled with maple crème anglaise and decorated with Red Hook Riesling raisins.
And last, oozing with decadence, the chocolate molten cake ($9) is drenched in coconut crème fraîche with little dots of a habanero-laced passionfruit purée.
Uvaggio celebrates its grand opening Thursday, April 17, beginning at 7 p.m. Visit uvaggiowine.com.