Get fresh pastas and other tastes of Italy at Limoncello Restaurant in Aventura

Italian food, served with a smile at Limoncello in Aventura. Photo by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald
Italian food, served with a smile at Limoncello in Aventura. Photo by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald

Enjoy the sweet life with dishes inspired by the Amalfi Coast and a small glass of the namesake lemon liqueur at Limoncello in the Concorde Plaza shopping center in Aventura. 

Enter to find a black chandelier, a basket of lemons on the hostess stand and large sculpted masks on the mustard-sage tinted walls. Have a seat at the polished granite bar or a table in the vast space divided into several areas. A sunflower bloom floats in small glass bowls on each table for evening service. During the day, white gauze curtains are tied back to let light flood in through a wall of windows.

Owners Vincenza Michienzi, better known as Enza, and her businessman husband, Diego Franco, partnered with chef Rosario Corrao to open about six months ago in the former Chef Allen and Luca Bella space that they renovated. 

Michienzi is from Naples, where she was a TV journalist, writing political news for 25 years; Franco is from Sorrento. The two met 11 years ago at a party for the artist Lello Esposito, who sculpted the masks that hang in the restaurant. The chef is from Capri, so the menu reflects their combined southern coastal roots, with lots of seafood dishes plus a menu of lo sfizio (tapas). 

All three came to Miami for vacation and decided to move here. They met when Michienzi hired Corrao to cater her birthday party, and the idea for a restaurant was born. The chef went to culinary school in Naples and worked all over Italy and Europe, coming to Miami 15 years ago. He has cooked at the James Beard House in New York, the former Versace mansion in South Beach and Bice, Caffe Milano, Pelican Cafe, Mezzanote, and the Hyatt and Breakwater hotels, all in South Florida. 

Limoncello can open the palate to start a meal or can end it as a digestive. The liqueur is made in southern Italy — Sicily and Sardinia — from the zest, peels and pith of Femminello St. Teresa lemons steeped in a neutral spirit until the oils are released, then mixed with simple syrup. 

A splash is added to the lemon risotto, which is not on the menu, but ask for it as this is the house special. It is made with short-grain arborio rice that releases starches to create a creamy mass enriched with mascarpone and infused with strips of lemon peel, coriander and bits of asparagus and topped with two seared prawns. 

Crudo include a tower of raw tuna chunks with avocado; seaweed salad in citrus, sesame oil and balsamic vinegar sauce; and thin-sliced cooked octopus carpaccio marinated in lemon, olive oil and parsley. A good starter is fresh mozzarella that is breaded and baked plated with caper, tomato and black olive caponata sauce with shaved parmesan and toast strips for mopping up the sauce. 

Pastas are house-made. Try chitarra (guitar string spaghetti) with clams in garlic white wine sauce with cherry tomatoes and basil, or lobster ravioli in classic creamy pink vodka sauce with diced shrimp. There’s also branzino piccata in lemon caper sauce and meats from chicken parmigiana and veal Milanese to steaks and lamb chops with rosemary oil. 

Entrees come with roasted potatoes, grilled seasonal vegetables or sautéed mushrooms. 

Italian profiteroles make a decadent end with puff pastry shells filled with sweet ricotta cream dipped in dark chocolate with a fresh strawberry on top and dots of kiwi marmalade, perfect with a creme of Limoncello nightcap.