Miami is jumping into the food hall craze with both feet this year.
These trendy restaurant flea markets are in Aventura, Wynwood and the Design District, and they’re planned for South Beach and the new megacomplex going up near the site of the old Miami Arena downtown. And at the shimmering Brickell City Centre, the marvel of a mall that has swallowed up roughly three blocks of Brickell, there’s Casa Tua Cucina.
Unlike the typical food hall, which features pop-ups of various restaurant purveyors, Casa Tua Cucina is all about Casa Tua. The longtime off-Lincoln Road source of celebrity-studded, high-end Italian dining runs this bright, 300-seat giant of a room, which opened late in December as an appendage of the Centre’s Saks Fifth Avenue store.
The centerpiece is a mammoth open-air grill station, where line cooks toil to bring you your Wagyu ribeye with golden oven-roasted potatoes. But there are 10 stations in all: pasta, prepared food counter, charcuterie, bakery, juice and salad bar, pizza oven, coffee and tea, the grill area with crudo bar to name a few. Each has its own cashier, like a fancier version of El Palacio de los Jugos. The only annoying thing is having to pay multiple times depending on what level of variety you’re looking for, but you don’t need to tip if you don’t want to. It’s almost like paying at Whole Foods.
That said, Casa Tua Cucina is a joy to visit. It’s loaded with enough discoveries to make it feel like a new place each time you go. The staff is impeccably trained and helpful and seem genuinely happy to be there. The atmosphere has the bustling euphoria of a train station restaurant in Venice, and it’s every bit as Italian. The place couldn’t be more different from the cozy, parlor-like original Casa Tua, but the food is of the same top-notch quality.
Given the setting and the Casa Tua pedigree, you won’t be surprised to hear that prices are high. But choose cleverly and you’ll have a moderate check. There are even wines by the glass for less than $10, a rarity these days for fine dining.
Pastas, which go for as little as $12, are a smart option. The classic Pecorino-and-pepper sauce cacio e pepe, is outstanding here. The 24-month-aged cheese is whisked with sichuan pepper and sturdy egg tagliolini. Their Bolognese (fusilli in a tomato-based sauce made with ground veal) is rich and lush. Another fusilli, this one with pomodoro sauce, cherry tomato confit and basil, is light and fresh. And risotto al funghi, with porcini, oyster and shimeji mushrooms, is hearty and dense with mushroom flavor.
From the grill, our skirt steak at first arrived cold but came back perfectly done, with a respectable chimichurri on the side. Grilled salmon was properly done to medium, juicy and tender. Sides at the grill station include a standout grilled veggie stack, as beautiful to look at as it is to eat, and a generous serving of perfectly roasted potatoes. Polenta had rich flavor but was too soupy.
Our verdure alla griglia, a cheeseless pizza with tomato sauce and grilled vegetables, was packed with artichokes, zucchini, plum tomatoes and roasted acorn squash. The pie had plenty of flavor, although the crust was distractingly over-charred.
At the salad station, you can build your own from dozens of options or pick a composed salad. The endive salad was a terrific choice, the endive tossed with lentils, chick peas and white onion in a pleasantly sweet and light basil Caesar dressing.
That’s a good option for lunch, as is the list of paninis. The jovial panini maker will mix and match fillings based on your preferences and his, but feel assured he will recommend tomato and arugula. The prosciutto, speck, bresaola and ham are all outstanding, and there are vegan and vegetarian sandwiches, too.
Desserts include various bonbons, a classic tiramisu and — you’ll feel as if you’re in Florence — an array of gelatos made on the premises. Coffee and salted caramel might be the best, but if you like, you can try them all.
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If you go
Place: Casa Tua Cucina
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ (Very Good)
Address: 70 SW Seventh St., Miami.
Contact: 305-755-0320, casatuacucina.com
Cost: $11-$17 pizzas, $12-$15 salads, $12-$28 pastas, $10-$15 panini, $16-$140 (Tomahawk steak) meats
Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days
FYI: Major credit cards, garage and street parking, options for kids, full bar.
What the Stars Mean: 1 (Poor) 1.5 (Fair) 2 (OK) 2.5 (Good) 3 (Very Good) 3.5 (Excellent) 4 (Exceptional)