Sunday, December 27, 2009

Perricone's - Authenticity in a Sea of Sameness

Perricone's Markeplace - 15 SE 10th Street, Miami Florida 33131

On a family vacation in Florida right now, Dan and I headed down to Miami for our customary visit.  This time was a bit different, as we explored downtown Miami instead of our usual South Beach.  The experience was fantastic, and especially because we dined at Perricone's, a surprising gem in the midst of national food chain sameness.

Situated in Mary Brickell Village, an outdoor shopping and dining area in downtown Miami, surrounded by chain restaurants such as P.F. Chang's, Rosa Mexicano and Starbucks, Perricone's unique atmsophere immediately drew us in.  It looked like a huge outdoor garden, surrounded by little twinkling lights and a canopy of lush trees.  I loved that it was all open and when you looked up from your seat, with a great view of the night sky, the trees and an occassional star. 

The front of the restaurant serves as a specialty foods store (hence the word "marketplace" in its title) and the back has two huge dining areas, one elevated and another on the ground level.  It was only later that I found out that the interesting building it's housed in is an old barn, transported by the Perricone family from Vermont to South Florida in the early 1900's.

It's probably easy to guess that Perricone's serves old fashioned Italian food.  Specializing in classic Italian dishes such as meat lasagna and fresh pastas, this place is the epitome of comfort and tradition.

Fiocchi Gorgonzola - I was in the mood for something cheesy, so I chose this option, consisting of purse-shaped pasta filled with fresh pear and four cheeses, topped with crunchy walnuts and slightly sweet gorgonzola sauce.  Simply put, it was out of this world!  The pasta had a velvety texture with a sweet creamy filling, giving the tastebuds a slight tang from the gorgonzola.  I liked that the gorgonzola wasn't overly pungent, and it was a pleasure mopping it up with the delicate pasta.

Grandma Jennie's Meat Lasagna - Dan chose this no bull$%^ classic Italian dish and he didn't regret it.  There were many great things about it, but my favorite was the meaty sauce and the bubbly cheesy top that was on the well-done side.  The tomato sauce was yummy too, a tad sweet with the right amount of acid--I guess they don't call it their signature sauce for nothing.

Perricone's Chocolate House Cake with Vanilla Gelato - Wow, when we saw this on the menu, we couldn't refuse--and especially because it's made in-house.  This fabulously chocolatey dessert was a combination of rich bittersweet chocolate mousse and chocolate cake drizzled with white chocolate hazelnut crunch, and on top of it all, finished with a chocolate ganache frosting.  It sounds rich and heavy but it was actually quite light, as the dough was airy and made of good quality chocolate.  The vanilla gelato on top added a refreshing, clean flavor that should not be missed, as this was an extra add-on.

Service and Cost:
I liked our waiters because they were attentive and sort of old fashioned - from knowing everything about the food to being dressed in snazzy cumberbuns and striped shirts, they were the real deal.  They made sound recommendations that were confident yet not too forceful.  The whole experience reminded me of old-school dining and everything that I like about it.

Costs are reasonable, especially for this part of Miami, which is on the ritzy/expensive side.  The whole dinner, including two entrees a dessert and two alcoholic beverages set us back $72 including tax and tip.

A breakdown of the prices is the following:

Appetizers: $9.95-$14.95
Pasta: $10.95-$16.95

Entrees: $15.95-$28.95
Desserts: $2.95-$7.95

3 Mmmms

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