Now open: Coconut Grove's Spasso--"Simple, honest, brutal food"

Italian restaurants in Miami may be a dime a dozen, but the newest one, Spasso, in the Coconut Grove space formerly known as Calamari, promises something no other Italian–or any, frankly–restaurant in the city promises: “brutal food.” We know they don’t mean that literally, so we asked a PR rep about it and she told us, that it reflects the cooking philosophy of the restaurant’s Chef Gaetano Ascione. “He’s pretty serious about the way he cooks,” she said.

Prior to opening Spasso, Ascione was at the Michelin rated Chicago restaurant Gioco as Chef/Patron for five years.  His CV also lists stints as Executive Chef at the NATO Allied Officer’s Club in Napoli, Italy; the Paradise Beach Hotel and Casino in Busan, South Korea; the oldest private club in Singapore-the Tanglin Club; and the Palace Hotel and Casino in Sun City, South Africa. Clarifying his philosphy, the spin is that ” the cuisine at Spasso will be, ‘rustic, simple and brutally honest – serving only good food.'”

On the menu: Asparagi ($9) consisting of steamed pencil asparagus, gorgonzola, boiled egg, tomatoes drizzled with thyme dressing; Polpettine ($10)– beef and veal meatball with blonde raisins, basil-infused tomato sauce; Thin crust pizzas baked in a stone-fired oven; Pastas including Linguini ($18) mixed with manila clams, baby calamari, tomatoes and pine nuts, and homemade Orecchiete ($16) with oxtail meat, tomatoes, arugula, and parmesan; Branzino ($24) in a puttanesca sauce, a 16 oz. bone-in ribeye ($36), and a Colorado Lamb Chop ($36).

In addition to the menu selections, striking specials will be offered each night designed to “brutally” impress guests.  Spasso opened quietly, not brutally, Wednesday night.