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Stunning Soleá and Swank Zucchero

In its latest incarnation, Soleá at the W South Beach is, for Victoria Pesce Elliott, "as warm and welcoming as a cup of steaming chocolate on a cold winter night." Like an awkward debutante transforming into a cast member on Gossip Girl, "This is not the same Soleá that made its faltering debut in August." Thanks to "talented executive chef Marc Vidal," the restaurant gives "South Beach its first real taste of Spanish cuisine." In fact, Vidal's Catalan-style cooking "is deliberate, confident, relaxed and executed with such care that virtually everything is worth trying." Braised veal ccheeks are "sublime," huevo frito con patatas are "exquisite," croquetas are "miraculously light," and foie gras salad is "complex" and "gorgeously balanced." The decor is "chicly understated with slate and hardwood floors, glittering floor-to ceiling glass walls, a languorous outdoor dining space and staffers as good looking as the celebrities who show up here like doves on a telephone wire." Verdict? Three stars. [Miami.com]

João "Juca" Oliveira, owner of Tutto Pasta and Tutto Pizza on Coral Way, also owns Zucchero, which, according to Lee Klein is "his swankest effort to date." But swank isn't always a good thing as Klein also notes that "Zucchero lacks the value the Tuttos tout." The reviewer wasn't the only one who thought so, either. Seems that "management has picked up on this, for some entrée prices — which originally ranged up to $29.95 — were lowered between our visits." Prices aside, although his artichoke souffle "seemed to have been baked in a small muffin tin earlier and zapped to order . . . it was tasty with a top hat of black truffle slice and a pool of thick asparagus sauce slashed with oil from the same fungi, but this soufflé had less lift than Joe Pesci in flip-flops." Pizza, which, says Klein, "should be something of a Zucchero specialty," had a crust that was "thin as a dime--and thus too cracker-like crackly." Pasta is the way to go: "Thick strands of spaghetti came tossed with basil-strewn marinara sauce and four Kobe meatballs that tasted just fine." Homemade ravioli, notably the "green pouches, served beneath a salmon entrée, are wrapped around a heavily thyme-tinged spinach interior." Klein also praised the sliced flat-iron steak, which, "braced with Malbec demi-glace exuded a delicious char-grill flavor and strong herbal notes from the marinade." Wine list is short but full of "red heavy hitters" and selections for under $40, but the waiters "are more supermarket Chianti than Super Tuscan — young, light, and accessible but not smoothly experienced or capable of complex interactions (partly owing to language)." Dinner specials aside, "while Zucchero wears a swank look, its food and service are more befitting a place with red-and-white checkered cloths and straw-wrapped bottles of Chianti on the tables, multiple menu mentions of truffle oil notwithstanding." [Miami New Times]

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