The big review: Bartolome **½

Grilled Provolone Cheese with marinated tomatoes in olive oil and oregano. Photo: Charlotte Southern.
Grilled Provolone Cheese with marinated tomatoes in olive oil and oregano. Photo: Charlotte Southern.

Bartolome, a chic little Argentine with nice lines and a perky attitude, has quickly made friends in its South Beach neighborhood, occupying the sweet corner spot snuggled between Sunset Harbor and Publix on Purdy Avenue. It’s as cozy and comfortable as a well-worn recliner and, despite an oldies soundtrack of ’80s pop icon Michael Franks and Rod Stewart, the vibe inside is hip.

The menu — a mix of grilled specialties, Italian plates and a few out-of-leftfield entries such as honey and coconut milk-mashed potatoes — is endearing. Prices are more than fair, especially given the mostly American-sized portions, made for sharing. The food is simple, rustic and satisfying. Lots of cheese and meat combine for big impact, as in the well-recommended grilled provolone cheese sprinkled with oregano and served alongside sweet, sliced baby tomatoes and a generous tangle of snappy microgreens.

One of the most impressive things about this modest newcomer is the freshness of its simple salads. The Bartolome salad and its Mediterranean sibling with asparagus, hearts of palm, beets and nibs of corn are smothered in thick, mayonnaise-based dressings. If you’re fat-averse, ask for the zesty citrus vinaigrette instead.

Then again, if you’re seeking the light, this may not be the place for you: Most of the best dishes are in the beef category or come laden with cream. The misnamed bocconcini (“little mouthfuls”) di Parma, for example, brings a pair of tender but hefty spinach crepes loaded with chunks of ham and chicken in a rich ricotta filling, served with a molten cheesy sauce.

The lobster ravioli, passable gnocchi and decent tortelloni come with thick sauces, too. The seafood linguine is more delicate, with light, seemingly handmade strands of noodles tossed with a veritable aquarium of sea creatures, including mussels, shrimp, clams and squid. A gratin of heavenly creamed spinach with whispers of citrus and nutmeg, chunky mashed potatoes and delectable, must-order Gorgonzola cheese croquettes with fig sauce are more dairy-heavy dishes worth gorging on. The mahi-mahi with spicy peppers is not one of the better choices here. Neither are the flabby mussels in creamy wine sauce.

Best bets come from the grill, where a truly lovely skirt steak and a fine fresh salmon are expertly seared and served along with a choice of sides. Even a simple plate of sweetbreads or a single chorizo is tastefully garnished with lightly dressed greens.

This is a restaurant where there are no surprises. Simple food is well-prepared and presented. Even an impressive little pot of flan is sweetly garnished with a crispy caramel tuille, mounds of whipped cream and swirls of chocolate sauce.

Welcome to South Beach, Bart. Hope you can stay a while.

Bartolome Grill & Restaurant, 1410 20th St. (at Purdy Avenue), Miami Beach; 305-672-3838; noon-11 p.m. daily, until midnight Fri; appetizers $3.50-$13, entrees $14-$30, pastas $16-$26, sides $5-$7, desserts $5-$7

FYI: Wine and beer only; corkage $25; metered street parking; reservations accepted. AX, MC, VS

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Published: 6/08