He ran a kitchen when he was 19. Now he runs a Miami-area Italian restaurant of his own

Fetuccini a la vodka with bacon, cherry tomatoes and lightly breaded chicken at Mazzi Cucina
Fetuccini a la vodka with bacon, cherry tomatoes and lightly breaded chicken at Mazzi Cucina

Walk into Mazzi Cucina to be transported to the home of an eccentric nonna — a tiny space filled with memorabilia from the owners’ childhood, complete with family pictures.

Sometimes cured sausages hang above the counter from a wood rod. Benches are piled with mismatched pillows and there are rustic wood tables out front.

The food is simple northern Italian, made with premium ingredients such as 18-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Ligurian olive oil and house made pastas. Chef-owner Stefano Mazzi is from La Spezia, between Genoa and Pisa. An Italian restaurateur tasted his food in Italy and hired Mazzi as chef at his restaurant in Newport Beach California when he was 19. He came to Miami in 2011 to open Cavalli on Miami Beach.

Start With These Dishes

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Grilled octopus, prawns and scallops at Mazzi Cucina

Once seated a complimentary basket of house-baked crusty bread arrives with homemade pesto. Launch a meal with beef carpaccio with arugula, capers, sliced mushrooms and huge curls of shaved parmesan, seasoned with black pepper and olive oil. Artichoke salad is composed of thinly sliced  artichokes with mushrooms, celery and shaved parmesan, dressed with lemon juice, truffle oil and olive oil.

Be sure to try the Genovese-style warm octopus salad (a special), tender slices of tentacle and diced potato seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and flat-leaf parsley.

Share These Dishes

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Linguini clams with white wine and garlic at Mazzi Cucina

Entrees are ample enough to share. Try the bubbling hot eggplant parmesan made with oblong slices of globe eggplant, layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce and dusted in parmesan with basil leaves.

Lobster ravioli is stuffed with minced lobster in creamy shrimp bisque with paprika, turning it sunset orange. It’s topped with three grilled shrimp, making for a tasty dish. There’s also Portobello ravioli, fettuccini with porcini and linguini with a huge heap of steamed clams in the shell. Risotto is infused with white truffles and melts in your mouth.

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Lamb chops with linguini a la vodka at Mazzi Cucina

Other pastas include linguini with asparagus and spaghetti carbonara made with cream and pancetta. Livornese, a fish dish from the western coast of Tuscany, is often snapper cooked in marinara sauce with white wine, capers and chopped black olives. Or go with the lamb chops with roasted garlic.

Save Room For Dessert

Order the three-berry house panna cotta. It’s paired with mango and strawberry sorbet and fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries garnished.

Hidden Gems highlights out-of-the-way restaurants in Miami-Dade County. It is not intended to be an anonymous, critical review.

Mazzi Cucina

Address: 17010 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach

Contact: 305-930-3991,

Hours: Monday-Friday noon-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-11-p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m.-11 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers $11-$17, soup $9, pasta/risotto $14-$19, entrees $17-$22

F.Y.I. Beer and wine available

17010 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach