After hearing great things about Scarpetta, I decided to Miami Spice there. I was warned that they would ask you to get a drink at the bar before being seated. And, like clockwork, we arrived at our reservation time and were asked to take a seat at the bar. However, I didn’t mind, as I thought that for Miami, the cocktails were reasonably priced at $14, (and were truly delicious and fresh, fresh, as opposed to those non-fresh $14 cocktails). My only qualm is that, unlike the rest of the people standing around the bar, we were not offered any of Scarpetta’s homemade chips. I was hungry (it was a 10 pm reservation on a Sunday), and I kept shooting the bartender a look that said ‘FEED ME.’ She clearly didn’t read eyes, because I received merely a cocktail napkin. And since I’m not being featured on an episode of TLC’s “Weird Obsessions” where people eat paste and thangs of that nature, this didn’t really suffice. Luckily, the hostess seated us and we began our descent into a FEAST.
Our meal started off with a trio of breads and spreads – an eggplant caponata, marcapone butter, and olive oil. The butter was sweet, salty, perfectly spreadable. Have you ever had an incident where you put your knife in a piece of butter and it flies at the person you’re eating with? That won’t happen here. The butter was only overshadowed by the stromboli bread hidden amidst the other, generally pedestrian, bread choices. Pepperoni and cheese swirled into crusty bread, at this point I was glad I didn’t recieve those complimentary chips-more room for this deliciousness. So actually, the bartender must have been a fortune teller, rather than an eye-reader.
For our appetizer, we opted for the polenta with truffled mushrooms and the short ribs. As a severe lover of polenta, the first bite was a heavenly moment for me. It was ultra creamy and the mushrooms and the sauce from it were rich, with almost a gamey taste. One friend who went to Scarpetta after me thought that the choice of polenta, although delicious, was better suited for a fall or winter menu. Yes, this dish is very hearty, and may remind you of sitting in front of a fireplace with a flannel blanket. However, this is precisely why I loved it so much. It reminded me of home. Because Miami, to me, a New York transplant, is always so hot (minus a few weeks of weird frost), I can’t imagine when rich polenta would ever be appropriate under this theory. I am sure glad Scarpetta is offering it on their Spice menu, even in the brutal hotness of August, but BEWARE before you order this that it is not light in the slightest, and you will have two more courses to go. I’ve been eating a lot of short ribs recently, and I didn’t find Scarpetta’s to be anything extraordinary. The sauce, again, was rich, the meat was nicely braised, and it is a VERY generous portion of meat for an appetizer. With both appetizers being extremely filling, we opted for the lighter options the Spice menu had to offer: the spaghetti and the chicken. Let me just say this: if you want to order steak off a Miami Spice menu, go to Bourbon or Kane or Red. When you’re at Scarpetta, ORDER THE SPAGHETTI. We were apprehensive to do this at first because we wanted to get the most bang for our buck, and naturally, the steak seems to be the most expensive option on the menu. But the spaghetti is out of this world – thick strands that really soak up the flavor of the sauce. The whole time I couldn’t get over how wonderfully al dente the pasta was. The sauce was a little sweet, a little savory, a tad spicy. This was not my entree, but I wish I had ordered it too. Not to diss my chicken, or anything. It was intricate, with different layers of texture throughout: crushed marcona almonds with the crispy skin, the white meat layered over the soft dark meat, on a bed of creamy corn, pan gravy, and melt-in-your-mouth onions. To be honest, what I think was dark meat may have actually been sausage, but to me it had the texture of some dark meat chicken.
At this point, because we’re normal human beings and this is a ton of food, we’re stuffed. But naturally, I already had a spoon in my hand and a cappuccino on my mind, waiting for our dessert choices of Guayaba soup with pineapple and coconut panna cotta, and amendi chocolate lava cake with paired with a toasted almond gelato and caramel sauce. The chocolate cake was to me, your typical chocolate lava-type cake served at any restaurant. Yes, it was rich, it was chocolate-y goodness, but was it inspired? No. The panna cotta on the other hand was the perfect end to the rich meal – it was a great contrast of light fruit flavors. Golden guava juice, silky panna cotta that tasted of coconut without being overpowering. It brought me from sitting in front of the fireplace, to sitting with Jimmy Buffet on a beach somewhere. This was a filling meal to say the least. I suggest not eating lunch and then arriving at your reservation. The service was wonderful, the portions were huge, and we left with smiles on our faces. I just hope Jay-Z, dining three tables away, was as happy with his meal as we were. -Stefanie