When in Miami, Do Like the Italians

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In order to maintain its authenticity, Toscana Divino in Mary Brickell Village makes many of its ingredients, including the cheeses, cold cuts and pickled berries in vegetables, in house. 
In order to maintain its authenticity, Toscana Divino in Mary Brickell Village makes many of its ingredients, including the cheeses, cold cuts and pickled berries in vegetables, in house.

If an Italy vacation is out of the cards this year due to time or budget constraints, suggest your clients take a weekend trip to Miami, where they can eat, shop and play the Italian way.

Eat Like An Italian
For an authentic taste of Northern Italy, this side of the Atlantic, suggest your clients dine at Toscana Divino, a fine Italian restaurant in the trendy Mary Brickell Village near downtown Miami. The four-and-a-half-year-old restaurant, and local favorite (especially among the area’s resident Italians), offers traditional and modern Tuscan dishes such as maccheroni “al sugo toscano”, beef ragu parmigiano with olive oil, and petto d’anatra, roasted duck breast with endive, dates and pickled berries.

Chefs Jeff Maxfield and Andrea Marchesin in the Toscana Divino kitchen. 
Chefs Jeff Maxfield and Andrea Marchesin in the Toscana Divino kitchen.

I visited the intimate venue for a private menu tasting hosted by chefs Jeff Maxfield and Andrea Marchesin who presented myself, and the other journalists, with a gastronomic, multi-course feast beginning just as deliciously—with salami and housemade pickled vegetables—as it ended—with a dehydrated orange and melted chocolate dessert. In a way, the dinner served as a reintroduction to the restaurant, which in the last year made some “changes to the menu that [the team] realized was incorrect,” chef Jeff told me. “We kind of went back to our roots from day one [and] re-conceptualized the traditional and modern approach to the menu and started doing as much in house as possible.” Those homemade products include cold cuts, cheeses and pickled berries and vegetables. Toscana Divino even employs a fromager to make homemade burrata in the morning that is delivered to the restaurant in the evening.

And nevermind searching the menu for pizza and fettuccini, not because Toscana Divino can’t make it, but because they choose not to in order to “bring the traditional beliefs of the Italian kitchen and the culture here to Miami,” says chef Jeff. “Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of Italian restaurants have not done. They’ve brought the American Italian, and so that’s the perspective and the idea that people have of Italian cuisine in the U.S. And it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just something different than what we want to portray.”

In true Italian style, we lingered after dinner with the chefs and the restaurant’s president Stefano Cavinato for shots of Grappa, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy sold in-house. For more information, call (305) 930-6873 or visit toscanadivino.com.

The Bar at Level 25 at the Conrad Miami. 
The Bar at Level 25 at Conrad Miami.

Shop and Play Like an Italian
Speaking of Italian style, your clients can saunter over to the Bal Harbour Shops in Sunny Isles Beach to shop high-end Italian brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. While they may be miles away from the blue waters of the glittering Mediterranean, visitors can take part in the Italian tradition of sailing, by chartering a private yacht at one of the many rental companies dotting US1. Check out Recommend’s Visit Florida Specialist Course here to learn more about boating in the area and the rest of the state.

When it’s time for your clients to retire, recommend the opulent 319-room Conrad Miami at 1395 Brickell Ave. The palatial 36-story property offers luxe amenities such as a spa, rooftop pool, and elegant Atrio Restaurant and Wine Room, plus spectacular views of the Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay. Rates start $189 per night. For more information, call (305) 503-6500 or visit conradhotels3.hilton.com/en/hotels/florida/conrad-miami-MIACICI/index.html.