Lunch with Mario Silvestri and Sandy Scemla
moderated by bill kearney
Sandy Scemla and Mario Silvestri study Miami style. Scemla co-owns the Design District’s Sebastien James boutique, and Silvestri is half of the creative force behind hot Wynwood salon Junior & Hatter. On a stunning summer afternoon, we sat down with them for an alfresco lunch at Cecconi’s at Soho Beach House, their favorite eatery, where the two Italian-Americans traded thoughts on burrata, the finer points of authentic Italian pizza, and Miami’s ever-changing sense of fashion.
What part of Italy are your families from?
Mario Silvestri: Sulmona, which is about an hour east of Rome. It’s kind of like the Nebraska of Italy. It’s beautiful, all little villages.
Sandy Scemla: My family is from Bari. It’s a small, little northern town.
What’s your take on the food at Cecconi’s?
MS: Any Italian restaurant, you can judge how good it is just by the pizza, the simplest thing—the crust is really flaky, it’s nice. And if you go to Italy, that’s what the pizza is like there. There are very few places in Miami that get Italian food right.
SS: It’s authentic. And there’s not that many places in Miami that have it all like this.
The burrata is beautiful.
MS: Mixed with tomato and the oil and vinegar, it’s incredible. You have the sweetness of the cheese and the sweetness of the tomato. Out of Italian cuisine, I think what’s happening on this plate is the most sensory-overload flavor that exists. I just love it.
SS: Every time I come here, I pretty much have the same thing: spaghetti, meatball, burrata, and sometimes I’ll have pizza. I love comfort food, and that’s why I like the meatballs.
You guys are both drinking white wine.
MS: If I’m going to drink anything like wine, it has to be cold, and I just like the taste of Pinot Grigio.
How did they do with the setting?
SS: They nailed it. You feel like you’re not even in Miami. It has a little European feeling, and you can get away from commercialism. It’s small; it’s intimate. Just last week, I was here and David Beckham was right next to us at our table, and he was lovely.
MS: The first time I came to the Soho, the thing that impressed me the most was I looked over and I saw Kanye West and Kim Kardashian sitting at a table, and it was as if nobody even cared that they were there. I thought that was really cool.
You just opened a second location, correct?
MS: [The Salon] is going really, really well, and our Wynwood salon is actually kind of fashioned after the [Soho Beach House] spa.
What is the salon doing to move the style conversation forward in Miami?
MS: Right now, we have a campaign called “Be Different, Be You.” Every Tuesday morning, the whole team finds images that inspire us, and we put it out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter saying that if you’re into this look, we’ll actually do it for free.
What about the idea of following a trend versus actual style?
SS: We like to get to know our customers, and we like to get them comfortable in who they are, not try to make them wear something just because it’s the thing to wear. If it doesn’t look good on you, I wouldn’t let a customer walk out in it.
How has Miami style changed over the years?
MS: When you see what’s going on over the bridge, I think it’s really cool. Whether it’s the kids that don’t necessarily have a lot of money and they’re piecing outfits together however they can, thrifting outfits and making something cool… the same thing is going on with their hair.
Is Miami’s reputation for cheesiness waning?
SS: Oh yeah. I think because there’s so much diversity now. There’s just too many different people, Europeans, Brazilians. There’s an influx of so many different people that it’s taken that cheese factor out of it to a certain extent.
MS: Women are getting busier. I’m thinking styles are going to become more and more effortless. The braid thing that’s been happening for a while on the runways, you’re going to start seeing it more, maybe do ponytails and invert them.
SS: The weather dictates where we can go. Miami to me is always sexy, it’s always colorful. Whenever I buy, I try to think something that has a little bit more to it. If not, they’re not interested. You have to have a twist.
photography by gary james