Restaurant review

Family-friendly Fiorito serves hearty Argentine food in Miami

 

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Place: Fiorito

Rating:* * *  (Very Good)

Address: 5555 NE Second Ave., Miami

Contact: 305-754-2899

Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Prices: Appetizers and salads; $3-$14, entrees $14-$20; desserts $5

FYI: Reservations available; limited self-parking; beer and wine only; corkage $15;

AX, MC, VS.


Special to The Miami Herald

Named for the working-class provence of Buenos Aires where soccer star Diego Maradona grew up, Fiorito takes its fútbol as seriously as its food.

A signed blue-and-white-striped team uniform, a mural of the great player and lots of other paraphernalia make up the bulk of the décor of this most unlikely and charming new eatery in Little Haiti.

The gray-green concrete building is warmed by a busy wooden patio dotted with boxes of fresh growing rosemary, basil, thyme and mint. Inside are a single paddle fan, mismatched wooden tables, blackboard specials on the doors and walls and a soundtrack that includes tango music without seeming at all kitschy.

Brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Alvarez handle this intimate spot, with Cristian cooking and Maxi handling the front of the house. You’ll also find Cristian’s wife helping out at lunchtime. You can hear Italian, Spanish and English happily mixed in at all tables.

The food however, is straight-up Argentine, with many classics done exceptionally well. Hand-rolled empanadas stuffed with lovely bits of well-seasoned hangar steak are as flaky as the best French croissants, while a grilled octopus tentacle is lusciously tender and dotted with roasted red pepper and a bright mint chimichurri. A creamy calabaza soup with a kick of hot chili oil is made even richer with chunks of provolone that melt as you stir it. The portion is big, like all dishes.

A refreshing starter also comes by way of a ceviche with nice bits of shrimp, octopus and corvina soaked in a slightly spicy rocoto-flecked tiger’s milk.

Of course, good, simple Malbecs and other new world bottles complement the rustic fare.

The place is packed at lunch with a mixed crowd chowing down on the hearty menu, which is the same for lunch and dinner. The popular sandwiches include a hearty choripan made with slices of grilled organic pork sausage slathered with piquant chimichurri sauce and tangy threads of pickled red cabbage and a nice milanesa, pounded and breaded steak given a zesty hit of lemon aioli. All are served with irresistible hand-cut fries thick as thumbs and perfectly golden outside and puffed inside.

The tender, moist and flavorful braised short ribs are served over mashed potatoes with a velvety beef broth dotted with strands of silken red peppers and tiny green peas.

The pastas are indeed homemade, though our pappardelle lacked bite and the lamb ragu with Argentine reggianato cheese was a bit bland. Our corvina, two large filets with a nice tangle of arugula salad, was cooked perfectly though the fish could have been fresher. It’s better to stick with daily specials like the mushroom-stuffed ravioli.

Surprisingly, the churrasco, the most emblematic meal of this South American nation is generously portioned, well grilled but almost bereft of seasoning.

Desserts like the more Jello-y than creamy flan with a sidecar of stand-up-your-spoon-in-it dulce de leche are deliciously sweet, just like the wonderful family who owns and operates Fiorito as if it were their home. And with prices this cheap and quality this good, it is easy to see why.

Good luck finding a seat here for Dia del Amigo (or Friend’s Day) on Saturday, because it’s already packed with good folks throughout the year.

Victoria Pesce Elliott reviews Miami-Dade restaurants. E-mail her at vpevpe@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE

Read more Miami-Dade Dining stories from the Miami Herald

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