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Review: Brickell's Cipriani is satisfying


The first thing you'll notice about the year-old Cipriani, in Miami's Brickell neighborhood, is the sheer beauty of the place.

Tiny, white-linen-covered tables are meticulously set. White, upholstered armchairs with impeccable blue welt look to be vintage. There are striped terrazzo floors and floor-to-ceiling walnut walls framed by shiny steel. Giant windows give diners a view of Biscayne Bay and the Miami River. While the neighborhood is known for it 21st century high-rises, some history can be seen through those windows. Look west, and there's the Miami Circle, home to the Tequesta tribe two millennia ago.

Cipriani Miami is a long and swanky way from Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy, where the Cipriani family started in the hospitality business in 1931. Giuseppe Cipriani's great-grandsons, Maggio and Iganzio, now run an empire that includes restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Ibiza.

The Miami restaurant is crawling with suited manager types, plus dozens of white-jacketed waiters and busboys who all seem to share the same personal grooming credo: meticulous. They coddle on command, and miraculously retreat when they know you're content.

You have to start with the Bellini cocktail ($17) — pureed white peaches and prosecco — that Harry's Bar first served in 1948. Like so much at Cipriani, it is delicious.

Despite all the international glitz — "we feel the city is an ideal location for reaching our international clientele," a press release says — the best food at Cipriani is also the simplest. All the food is expertly presented. Portions tend to be small but satisfying.

I'm thinking of a simple salad made with shredded artichoke, mashed avocado and shaved Parmigiano ($22), in which you can taste the quality of every ingredient. Likewise, prosciutto "di Parma" with mozzarella di bufala ($27) is all about the meeting of salty, nutty and creamy, which Italian cuisine does very well. Octopus-and-potato salad ($27) is simply dressed in olive oil and lemon. I couldn't resist an appetizer of eggplant Parmesan ($22), with top-quality cheese, bright tomato sauce and eggplant that retained its texture and flavor in the cooking.

Between appetizers and main courses, four of us split an order of bucatini all'Amatriciana Bianca ($25). It is one of my favorite pasta sauces, and Cipriani doesn't disappoint, serving just the right amount of pork, pecorino and red-pepper flakes. The pasta, which you can buy in gourmet markets, is cooked to perfect al dente.

I am not a fan of calf's liver, but Cipriani's alla Veneziana with fresh polenta ($36) could convert me. Tender, thin slices of liver, caramelized onions and a buttery demi-glace come together for one of the richest-tasting dishes I've experienced. Only the polenta calms down the creaminess. The kitchen roasts a chicken ($26) expertly, with the skin golden and crispy, the flesh moist and flavorful. Classic veal Milanese ($36) is incredible, with the arugula and tomato salad served on a separate plate instead of on top of the meat. Grilled Australian lamb chops ($42) are cooked to the ideal temperature.

For dessert, Cipriani offers a wonderful vanilla meringue ($14), crema antica ($14) and chocolate cake ($14). They are true Italian desserts in that they're not overly sweetened.

Much attention has been paid to the menu, service and decor. Cipriani should now pay some attention to the furniture. Those vintage-looking chairs are among the most uncomfortable restaurant furniture ever. The restaurant's diminutive size does create a kind of tea party intimacy, but after dinner, we asked a group of other diners waiting for their cars what they thought of the seating. From the most petite to the tallest person, Cipriani's furniture got a thumbs-down.

Even a manager agreed they were torturous. If Cipriani can make its guests comfortable, it will be among the best Italian restaurants in South Florida. or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

465 Brickell Ave., Icon Brickell, Miami


Cuisine: Italian

Cost: Expensive-very expensive

Hours: Lunch and dinner daily

Reservations: Strongly suggested

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Moderate

Outside smoking: No

For kids: Highchairs

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: $7 valet

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