The Miami Dining Examiner was near the beautiful Biltmore hotel yesterday and decided to stop in for lunch at Fontana, a casual Italian restaurant. Fontana, has indoor and outdoor seating, with seating outside in a pretty courtyard, near a bubbling fountain (hence the name). As it is still hot in September in Miami, this diner and her guest opted to eat inside.
The tile floor, tiled walls and open kitchen make for a very casual (and somewhat noisy) dining experience. The white shirted waiters and chefs with black hats, colorful painted pottery and white tablecloths, lend a European feel to this Italian restaurant.
The Miami Dining Examiner ordered Miami Spice for $23 and asked for recommendations from the waiter, who was very happy to give them. A glass of the Miami Spice special white wine for $12 was ordered. The Negro Serra Lupini was a crisp, refreshing white, a welcome change from the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio.
The bread basket at Fontana is good. Skinny breadsticks, flatbread, olive bread and focaccia are presented, with olive oil and balsamic on the table to pour onto the bread plate for dipping. The focaccia, in soft pillowy triangles with salt on top, and earthy, fragrant olive bread were favorites.
While the fava bean, red beet and avocado salad sounded tempting, this diner ordered the tried and true beef Carpaccio. Thin slices of beef were topped with thin shavings of parmesan, with thick balsamic vinaigrette on the bottom of the plate. Arugula was piled on top with a finish of thin, white enoki mushrooms.
It was a nice dish, although the bundle of raw mushrooms served plain on top were a bit puzzling. They didn’t add much, taste-wise, and would have benefited from either being cooked or dressed with something acetic.
Up next, this diner ordered the sautéed chicken breast stuffed with spinach, prosciutto, fontina cheese and served with a white wine sauce. It came with a plop of creamy mashed potatoes. While everything tasted good, and it was a large portion, visually it was a dud. It was a white chicken breast in a white sauce with white mashed potatoes, and a single sprig of limp rosemary on top. A simple broiled tomato, or anything with color, would have been appreciated.
My guest ordered the Mezzi paccheri con le polpette for $23. The tube shaped pasta, which looked like fat calamari rings, was served in a thick red sauce with braised meatballs. It was a large portion; the pasta was cooked al dente and the veal meatballs were tasty. Parmesan cheese was offered by the efficient staff and salt and pepper was on the table.
Service was good. There seemed to be an over-abundance of staff to diners and a manager wandering around, checking everything out.
For dessert, the Miami Dining Examiner what was described on the menu as: dark chocolate bar mixed with hazelnut pistachio cookies, served with vanilla cream and berries. The chocolate, studded with nuts, was cut into round disks and sat in the creamy sauce, with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and a sprig of mint for garnish. The dark chocolate disks were soft and creamy, not crunchy as expected. Coupled with the cream sauce and fruit, all components had similar textures. Some crunch (like serving a cookie on the side) would have made it more satisfying.
The bill, which includes gratuity, came to $80- kind of steep for lunch.
This diner used to meet her future husband for drinks by the fountain at Fontana. If she was to return, it would be to sit by the fountain (in cooler weather) and order the cheese and meat platter for $15 (three choices) or $20 (five choices), with a nice glass of wine.
Unfortunately, this Miami Spice was a bit of a letdown and there are better Italian restaurants in Miami.
The Biltmore Hotel
Coral Gables, Florida