While her Latin roots serve as inspiration for her sultry swimwear designs, Luli Fama designer Lourdes “Luli” Hanimian loves authentic Italian fare for lunch.

Luli Hanimian
Luli Hanimian in front of Strada in the Grove, in a Luli Fama romper.

Lourdes “Luli” Hanimian glides down the street like a runway model, effortlessly navigating the uneven pavement in five-inch heels. As the eponymous inspiration behind Miami-based swimwear brand Luli Fama, which she co-designs with her brother-in-law, Augusto Hanimian, Luli has had practice doing the model walk, having stridden arm-in-arm with her closing look each season for the past four years at IMG’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim.

Known for signature prints and über-skimpy bottoms, the va-va-voom Luli Fama line has graced many a celebrity beach body, including model Hannah Davis, the brand’s current face, and is regularly featured on the pages of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue on the likes of Chanel Iman, Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen. With her fifth IMG show approaching this month, we sat down with Hanimian over fresh, bikini-friendly Italian food at Strada in the Grove to discuss 2015 trends, her definition of sexy, and her trick for making the perfect paella.

You and Strada in the Grove owner Maurizio Farinelli share a long history. How did you two meet?
My husband, Greg, and I used to go to Trattoria Sole all the time, for 13, 15 years; Maurizio was one of the owners for years. Our family had a lot of birthdays there, communions…. a lot of work events, too. We have a huge family, so there’s a birthday every month.

Did you follow Maurizio here?
Greg and I just ran into it. We didn’t know it was him. We were looking at a house in the area, and we were walking around and my husband said, “Let’s try it.” We’ve been coming now for a few months. I bring my sales reps. Everybody loves it. I always have my dog with me, so I usually sit outside.

What are some dishes you like to order at Italian restaurants?
Burrata is one of my favorites. I usually like a little side of pasta. They have one here that is by far the best, the pappardelle tartufo with porcini—out of this world, insanely good. And I love fish. I always know they have a fish special. [Today] it’s a Mediterranean branzino.

the Mediterranean branzino
The Mediterranean branzino is one of Strada’s daily fish specials.

That goes well with white wine.
I like wines a lot; my husband is Argentinean, so we drink a lot of Malbecs, a lot of reds, but I’m a big fan of buttery Chardonnay. Strada’s food is very authentic. When you go to Italy, everything is so simple and yet so good, not processed and not too many sauces and seasonings. I love that.

Does food play a big role in your family, given your Cuban background?
Absolutely. I cook and my husband cooks, too. We have a good mix in the kitchen. I make a really good paella. I put in a little bit of everything. It’s funny, we just came back from Exuma [Bahamas], and we were on a four-cabin yacht and I did the food shopping for the chef. The last night, I said, “Whatever you have left over, you put in the paella.” So we had chicken and chorizo and, of course, fish, lobster, shrimp, and scallops—everything. It was really good.

Chardonnay.
Hanimian likes a buttery Chardonnay.

Do you travel often?
I pretty much live on a plane. I travel all over for selling, and we do the Paris show. For store events, it’s Vegas, California, and I just came back from Puerto Rico. But when I’m designing, we go to Como and Barcelona. I love going to Europe, but I always come back to Miami.

You’re hands-on in the kitchen. Is it the same with your business?
It would be impossible for me to not be involved. When we do a fashion show, I will even choose my models. I’m just proud of the girls who walk my shows, and I’m really good to them. I believe you need to respect them and treat everybody well. Within the industry… sometimes that’s not how it is, so I spoil them. It’s genuine. And when they walk my shows, there’s so much good energy.

What does it take to be successful in such a competitive marketplace?
Take risks and stay different. I think competition is great. Even when they copy me, it’s great because [it forces you] to do something new.

a dessert of mini cannoli;
A dessert of mini cannoli.

You’re known for really sexy bikinis. What does sexy mean to you?
Confidence. A woman has to feel comfortable in what she’s wearing.

Luli Fama branched out into eyewear this year. Why?
We’re asked all the time to expand to a different customer, and we don’t want to. We want to cater to what our girl wants and stay in our niche. When you want to sell to everybody, that’s when you’re done.

What can we expect from you for 2015?
It’s a surprise, but I can tell you it’s focused on Miami. One print is all about palm trees and flamingos. It’s connecting with nature again. I think that’s something important right now.

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