Spaghetti at Scarpetta: the best things in life don't have to be complicated.
There's a group of folks I've recently met whose acquaintance is making it an even greater pleasure to live here in South Florida. The foodies are a motley crew from different walks of life with three things in common: a love of good eats, good drinks and good company.
Many of the foodies are great bloggers and writers, including, but not limited to: South Florida Food and Wine Blog, Mango and Lime, A La Maude, Ergagit, Sushi Pro and even my former landlord (what a small world!), who delights us on Facebook with gorgeous pictures of his latest kitchen wizardry.
My first opportunity to break bread with the South Florida Foodies was at Scarpetta, Miami's version of the New York City original, founded by Chef Scott Conant. In Italian, scarpetta means that thing we all love to do -- scoop up really good sauce with bread. Well, this restaurant is a bit fancier than a sop-up-sauce kind of place, but the food is just as good as if your grandma had been standing behind the stove stirring the pot. And I don't mean an old school grandma, but rather a grandma with gourmet flair who understands style and substance all rolled up in one mouthful.
Which brings me directly to the spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti. Simple spaghetti. Simple, yet bursting on my tongue with rich, buttery tomato sauce and fresh basil. Scarpetta's version of the classic dish makes me want to return to this luxuriously decorated oceanfront restaurant, the food on the plate reminding me that no matter how elegant a place is, that stuff I'm putting in my mouth better stick to my ribs. I loved this spaghetti so much for its comfort food quality, that all pretension was thrown out the window. Hopefully that didn't smack a fashion model sunbathing by the pool. So enamored did I become of this dish, that I thought of nominating handsome Scott Conant for hurricane season boyfriend; availed of fresh ingredients, I bet he could whip up something just as good over a sterno in the candlelight. Sorry, Chef Boyardee, though you come in a can, a seasoned hurricane pro aspires to much finer cuisine de aftermath.
(Actually, I'd have nominate Chef Michael Pirolo, who was in the kitchen the night of our sumptuous repast.)
Although Scarpetta serves much more than pasta (the noodles themselves made fresh on the premises, of course), it was this dish that lingered on my tongue's memory. Others I'd love to have an affair with, heck, even put up with tourists in the lobby for, would be the creamy polenta with the fricassee of truffled mushrooms, as well as the braised short ribs. Additional melt-in-your-mouth goodness could easily be found in the duck and foie gras ravioli with a marsala reduction.
And the cocktails. Yes, the cocktails. Go to this place even if you don't want to eat. As far as I know, there's no other bar like this in Miami Beach, mixing up vintage style cocktails that transport you to the streets of Rome wearing a fabulous scarf, big sunglasses and riding a Vespa to meet your intolerably sexy Italian lover. If you like whetting your appetite with drinks a bit on the bitter side, you'll love the San Remo, which is a blissful mix of Carpano Antica, Campari, elderflower liqueur, bourbon, fresh orange juice and fresh lemon sour, served on the rocks. It's like Audrey Hepburn on ice -- sassy and sophisticated with a dash of down-to-earth.
Luckily for us locals, Scarpetta is serving its signature spaghetti and other favorites during Miami Spice until September 30th at a reasonable cost of $35. Don't be intimidated by the lumbering tower and cavernous hallways of this resort property -- somewhere in there is that amazing bowl of spaghetti calling your name. And hey you don't even have to mortgage the house to park the car -- during Miami Spice, valet is only $7 with ticket stub validation.
Photo credit: Yogma on Flickr