First, Niven Patel changed the way Miami thought about Indian food. Now, he wants to do the same for pasta.
Patel, a James Beard award finalist for his Kendall restaurant Ghee, where he uses fruits and vegetables grown on his own farm, will open a new restaurant in Downtown Dadeland, focusing on pastas and a wood-fire oven. A 2019 opening date hasn’t been set. He made the announcement on the podcast Tea Time! with Mike & Mike.
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Erba, the Italian word for herbs, is the restaurant where Patel will showcase his love of fresh-made pasta, which he fell in love with while studying and working in Florence. He perfected it at several top South Florida restaurants, most recently alongside James Beard award winner Michael Schwartz at Michael’s Genuine.
“Everyone who doesn’t really know me knows me as the Indian chef. In reality, I’ve done everything but Indian in my career before Ghee,” Patel said.
Fresh ingredients will be the key, he said. Patel set Ghee apart when he decided to focus the menu on vegetable-forward southern Indian cuisine and grow many of the seasonal vegetables on a half-acre lot at his home in Homestead.
He put a farmer on Ghee’s payroll, and has now partnered with him to grow even more ingredients on an additional 1.5 acres. That means more fresh produce for Ghee — which earned a 3.5-star “Excellent” Miami Herald review and has a second location in the Design District — and Erba. They will grown specialty plants with Italian roots, such as Calabrian chilies, Sicilian tomatoes and rosa bianca eggplants. The rest he expects to buy from local farms, such as Bee Heaven in Homestead.
“Last year, we grew a thousand pounds of vegetables out of our backyard — and we still wanted to do more,” said Patel, who runs the restaurants and farm with his wife and parents.
Patel hired away Tim Piazza, the former chef at Brickell’s Fi’lia (also a Michael Schwartz restaurant, which received a 3.5-star “Excellent” Herald review) to run Erba’s kitchen. Together, they have spent the summer making pastas with local ingredients that will eventually show up at Erba. As a plus, Patel will be steps away to oversee both restaurants.
“Every restaurant has to have a soul, its own heartbeat,” Patel said.
Like Ghee, Erba will encourage ordering sharable plates, a mix of flatbreads and pastas with unexpected flavors.
“It doesn’t have to be a $28 plate of pasta,” he said. “I believe food should be approachable and affordable.”
8865 SW 72nd Pl., Kendall
Opening in 2019