Zucca Coral Gables Review – Exceptional Italian Tapas and Libations
Photos By Jason Hesch
The clouds loomed dark as the day’s light slowly transitioned to darkness. Traveling to our evening dinner event, I was faced with a torrential downpour, typical of South Florida summer. It’s a sign of the start of summer. It created a mood of cold, wetness. But eyeing the restaurant as past it to park my car, I can sense it’s inviting warmth of dimly lit interior, comfortable and comforting through rain splattered windows.
Upon hearing about Zucca I was so happy to be attending at this beautiful property, with yet another excellent restaurant worthy of its beauty. Inside I found a totally renovated Ristorante that delivers authentic, artisanal Italian cuisine from a diverse palette of the country’s regions, within a masterfully-crafted, modern space, yet still elegant and trendy.
Their sophisticated and alluring dining rooms serve as the perfect backdrop for your next date night. There are two separate areas of the restaurant. The main dining room to the right and the ZUCCA Bar, that was where we were located, hosts a Dj with a loungy feel I give the DJ kudos for keeping the volume level that adds to the ambiance but does not take away from your conversation.
Menu Zucca offers eclectic options for everyone, from very simple dishes, to more elaborate ones. at the bar, light bites and charcuterie were served. Don’t pass up their progressive, Italian-inspired mixology program. It is sure to delight your five senses. For two people, you can order two small plates and an entree, or two entrees and be satisfied. Entrees range from around $20-30, with appetizers usually in the $10-20 range. Lunch and dinner prix fixe menus are available.
The stars behind this working wheel are Chef Simone Mua – a native of Milan, Italy, Michelin-trained, chef Tony Maldonado and sous chefs Egidio Forastiere and Ludovico Amadio helmed the kitchen. They put their artistic touch on each plate that leaves our kitchen, leading to an authentic Italian culinary experience for our guests.
The bar area is beautifully array with copper drinkware and garnished with citrus and flowery displays and matching the copper light fixtures hanging over the bar. The copperware catches your eye as the bartender shakes your drink with a fitness of a Latin trance-like dance maneuver.
I ordered two signature drinks. First was Nonna’s Mule, their own take on the classic Russian Mule. It was made with Gra’it Grappa, fresh watermelon, lemongrass, ginger and a splash of grapefruit soda. This drink will sure to be your latest cocktail craze. The second drink was a frozen drink called Zucca Frose. An upscale slushy made with Rutte dry gin, rosé wine, mandarine napoleon pomegranate and rose water and petals.
Third, mine and I think everyone’s eye bulge a little one see the owl cup drink served in a huge copper owl shaped cup. This drink is great for sharing with at least 3 people. It comes complete with a miniature twig nest at the base too!
Many of their plates are bedded on fresh microgreens, always a culinary joy to see an attention to plating. On the customizable charcuterie board, comes hot focaccia bread with tomatoes and olives baked in, Mortadella and Prosciutto di Parma with Taleggio and Pecorino cheeses and fig jam.
Skewed tender of high-quality Angus beef. Simple, savory, and hits the spot. Their meat is dry-aged for 21 days in-house, using a specialized refrigerator that draws exceptional flavors.
I recommend their specialty, the Fiori di Zucca. These elegant, edible flowers are blossoms of the zucchini plant and are stuffed with mozzarella cheese served lightly fried. Other stuffings are available. Then garnished with leafy greens and long sprouts.
Crostini means “little toasts” in Italian. topped with capers, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, thinly sliced veal and a tuna emulsion. Weird but good according to my dining companion.
Tuna Tare Tare on a spoon with kosher salt, capers and garnish with sprigs and spring leaf.
Arancini – crispy rice balls stuffed with meat and olives.
Bacon wrapped shrimp.
Ravioli with pumpkin, brown butter and sage. Not so sweet, said a guest next to me, usually they are very sweet, but not this, made it to perfection.
Risotto primavera with spring vegetables and garnished with grated parmesan cheese.
Finally, dessert came in two tiny glasses. A classic Italian Tiramisu made with ladyfinger dipped in espresso, mascarpone cheese and hints of chocolate. And you can’t forget the Panna Cotta! A classic Italian dessert homemade using sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and topped with a huge ripe raspberry on top of a layer of raspberry sauce, adding a “sweet” ending to my evening.
The servers are very attentive to your every need, and they make sure you are having a great experience throughout your visit. I want to give a special shout out to Aaron, our server for the evening. His grace and knowledge of the food and drinks will help you to be relaxed if you are a little timid about what to order. Know that you are in good hands for a satisfying experience.
ZUCCA is located at the iconic Hotel St. Michel in the heart of Coral Gables, Florida.
Hotel St. Michel, 162 Alcazar Ave., Coral Gables; 786-580-3731; hotelstmichel.com/restaurant.html. Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday and Monday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.