Whether it’s Fellini films or pizza, Italian culture has always had a certain pull for us in the States. When we think of Italy, we think of aesthetic elegance, romance, and a laid-back, joyful way of life. Or maybe that’s just what the Italophiles like me, who’ve been taken in by the genius melodrama of a Verdi opera, or the sublime flavor balance of good pistachio gelato, think. We are the type of people who wonder if you can spend a whole weekend exploring Italian-influenced art, architecture, music, and food — practically pretending to be on vacation in Italy — in an American city. After all, we crave the enchantment of Italian culture, and we’d like to find it closer to home, in places we can explore without dealing with customs and international flights.
Inspired by the recent arrival of the FIAT 500 on American shores, Flavorwire sent me to Miami, New Orleans, and San Francisco to find out if it was possible to recreate Italian grandeur right here stateside. In these cities where you might not expect to pull off a weekend jaunt all’Italiana, I discovered a surprising number of spots that retained their local flavor while staying true to the Italian spirit. Click through to explore the first of three action-packed weekend itineraries that will show you where to find the magic of Italy without having to cross the Atlantic.
Roaming around Miami, you’ll undoubtedly hear Spanish more than Italian (or even English), but don’t be fooled by it: Italian art, design, cinema, and food are thriving in the city’s art and design districts and on Miami Beach. So you don’t limit yourself to South Beach, rent a car — preferably a convertible for maximum sun exposure. That way, you’ll be able to check out the following locales, most of which are situated off the usual tourist circuit.
Evening: Aperitivo Hour
The Italian aperitivo is like our happy hour, except in the Italian version, wine cocktails, usually herbal and bitter, are the standard. They make exceptional ones at Macchialina, a new Italian restaurant located on Alton Road in South Beach. For a classic aperitivo cocktail, try the Italiano with prosecco, a splash of Campari and a twist of lemon. To get in the Miami mood, try an Italo-tropical hybrid: the Capri classic with cocchi Americano, muddled cucumber and mint.
After a few hours in the lively atmosphere of Macchialina, you’ll need to simmer down with a quiet dinner at Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, located on a section of South Beach next to the water that’s as low key as it gets. A mixed plate of homemade mozzarella, an assortment of roasted vegetables, and imported prosciutto is a good prelude to a big plate of malloreddos, typical Sardinian pasta shaped like tiny seashells, which is topped with lamb ragu. After dinner, if you can still move, and drink, finish your night at Segafredo L’Originale, a Lincoln Road staple and a good place to lounge outdoors, people watch, and practice your Italian with the indulgent waiters.
Macchialina: 820 Alton Rd.; (305) 534-2124; drinks $9-$11. Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante: 1801 Purdy Avenue; (305) 531-2228; Appetizers around $14, Mains around $35. Segafredo L’Originale: 1040 Lincoln Road; (305) 673-0047; Drinks around $10.