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Great Italian at Calamari; Altamare's Food Outshines Most

Wow, the subhead gives away Lee Klein's take on Coconut Grove's Calamari: "great Italian, great setting." Enough said? We're talking about Klein, not Silent Bob. Props go out to restarateur Tom Billante, who "developed a crowd-pleasing recipe early on and keeps re-creating it successfully in different settings . . . His main ingredients remain the same: freshly cooked, inexpensive Italian food in a casual, attractive setting." Speaking of attractive, "the dining room is a modern, streamlined uptick on the Italian-American neighborhood restaurants that Billy Joel used to sing about." Free predinner bruschetta was "tasty as always, but the tomatoes weren't as ripe as usual." While the crust on the margherita piza was "crisp, a compromise between thin and fluffy," the "overwelming taste of garlic powder rendered the slices nearly inedible." That being said, "appetizers consistently met or exceeded expectations," and, with the exception of a "dry, distasteful half-chicken," he "enjoyed main courses too." Service on various visits went from strong to "much worse," but thanks to Wine Wednesdays which offers half off bottles, "You might say this dash of exceptional value is the salt in Billante's recipe--the extra boost that makes everything go down a little better (even bland service)." Bottom line: "Guests exit instead with a happy, gratified feeling that, dagnabit, Grandma has done it again!"[MNT]

Victoria Pesce Elliott doled out an impressive three and a half stars to Altamare. Impressed by the makeover, VPE equates the restaurant to "the high school grad who changes his name from Billy to Bill when he goes off to college," and as a result "the drab AltaMar has morphed into the more elegant AltaMare." But it's not all about the extra "e." Owner Claudio Girodano "is still giving Miami's discerning palates what should be more common in a place surrounded by water: consistently exquisite local seafood." Chef Simon Stojanovic "brings with him not only the cellphone numbers of South Florida's best farmers and fishermen but a commitment to letting local ingredients at the peak of freshness speak for themselves. If imitation is the height of flattery, Michael's Genuine chef-owner Michael Schwartz must be blushing." In short, she pretty much loved everything (a whopping list of 16 superlatives and one paltry negative), saying "This food outshines most any I have had on the Beach in years." [Miami.com]

AltaMare

1223 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139 Visit Website

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