Step through the revolving door into an elegant, high-ceilinged space decorated with walnut paneling, floor-to-ceiling windows and tables with white leather chairs trimmed in blue velvet, all set against sweeping views of Biscayne Bay.
The venerable Cipriani opens on Miami’s Brickell Avenue at noon on Friday, the group’s first U.S. restaurant outside New York and Los Angeles.
One year in the making, Cipriani Downtown, at 465 Brickell Ave. in the Icon Brickell, is a project of brothers Maggio and Ignazio Cipriani, fourth generation family members whose great grandfather Giuseppe opened the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1931.
“We’re thrilled, we’re excited,” said Maggio Cipriani, 23, whose brother is 25. “We love the space and we love the outcome.”
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The family chose Miami as the ideal spot for its 20th restaurant, he said, adding to a roster of upscale locations that includes London, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Abu Dhabi and Ibiza.
“Miami is definitely a growing market, and our international clientele, a lot of them come through here on a monthly basis,” said Cipriani, who lives in New York, but who will be here for three weeks and then plans to start splitting his time between New York and Miami. “We thought there was no better time to open here.”
Open from noon to midnight, for lunch and dinner, seven days a week, Cipriani Downtown hopes to be the spot for everything from power lunches and expense account dinners to romantic tête-à-têtes and special occasion celebrations. The restaurant can close off part of the space for private groups and events.
“We decided on Brickell because I believe it’s less seasonal than South Beach and you can work through lunch and dinner,” Cipriani said.
Restaurant consultant Dean Haskell said the choice of Miami’s financial district make sense for its core clientele.
“Harry’s Bar and Cipriani are a well known, longstanding brand worldwide, and Miami is an international capital for finance for the Latin American market as well as Europeans doing business in Latin America,” said Haskell, founding partner of National Retail Concept Partners in Franklin, Tenn. “So Cipriani would be a natural meeting place for members from both continents, as a known meeting ground.”
Designed by Florentine architect Michele Bonan, — who was also responsible for Cipriani restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Monte Carlo, London and Ibiza as well as Casa Tua in Miami Beach — Cipriani Downtown features two levels, with a total of 400 seats. The main level has 22-foot ceilings, adorned with two show-stopping Murano glass chandeliers. The space is divided into two rooms that accommodate about 180 seats and can be separated by a floor-to-ceiling partition.
A lower level is still under construction, is slated to open within two months. It will offer an outside patio that can be enclosed with retractable doors; plans also call for an outdoor grill and pizza oven.
The overall space, which encompasses 12,000 square feet including the kitchen, previously was vacant.
It has been transformed into a chic Italian salon with a waterfront theme. Elements from other Cipriani locations have been incorporated into the restaurant, such as the positioning of the bar, which mirrors the layout at Harry’s Bar in Venice, as well as millwork and furnishings by Tedeschi. The floors are grey-and-cream “Venetian” terrazzo, with walls covered in walnut, accented with polished steel and framed by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the bay. A bookcase with Rizzoli art books covers part of one wall. White linen napkins carrying the blue Cipriani logo and white linen table clothes adorn the three-legged tables, accented with white leather chairs or blue velvet banquettes.
Like other Cipriani restaurants, the Miami outpost serves the iconic Bellini, which dates back to 1948 at Harry’s Bar. It’s made of puree of white peaches and Cipriani Prosecco Wine, and costs an immodest $17. Other cocktails and glasses of wine are mostly $13, with a glass of Cipriani Prosecco, $11, glasses of champagne $18 to 23, and beers $7.
As part of its menu, the restaurant will feature sashimi options for lunch and dinner, along with signature Italian dishes including carpaccio alla Cipriani, $24; baked green tagliolini with Praga ham, $23; risotto “alla primavera,” $27; and vanilla meringue, $14.
“We try not to vary too much and stick to what we know,” Cipriani said.
The restaurant’s egg pasta is made in the company’s own factory in Italy, and other Italian delicacies will be flown in as well, such as fresh burrata, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and prosciutto. Even the staff has been imported, including chefs, managers and wait staff who work at Cipriani restaurants in Italy, New York and Ibiza.
For now, Cipriani Downtown’s menu is the same for lunch and dinner, but will change daily, said Stefania Girombelli, who handles marketing and public relations.
Since its roots in Venice in 1931, the legendary Cipriani family has expanded globally. Its newest property in the United States is a hotel and restaurant in Los Angeles — Mr. C Beverly Hills.
“We have a faithful clientele that likes to go to all the locations we open,” Girombelli said. “Hopefully we will attract a lot of new people here, too, and be part of the Brickell community.”
In fact, drawing local customers will be key to sustaining a high level of success, said restaurant consultant Dennis Lombardi.
“Its reputation proceeds it, and it will get a lot of notoriety and a lot of visibility, and hence a lot of trial pretty quickly,” said Lombardi, executive vice president of foodservice strategies for WD Partners, based in Columbus, Ohio. “But a lot of it depends on it being perceived as chic and the place to be after you’ve been there once — to differentiate success from wild success.”