The Italians have really been pioneers in NoBri. Fratelli Milano (213 SE First St., 305-373-2300) is tiny, with a kitchen so small there’s no storage, so everything’s made fresh daily. That said, the cramped quarters can make you feel like family, with the love coming from twin brothers Roberto and Emanuele Bearzi in the kitchen, and Roberto’s wife, Fiorella, running the front of the house. They began doing breakfasts and lunches three and a half years ago for the office crowd, but dinners have made the family grow, with customers (some walking over from the north end of Brickell) so loyal that, as restaurants close in other neighborhoods, this one recently doubled its size by taking over an optical shop next door. And since Fiorella isn’t going to let you leave without filling you up, try the pappardelle Milano with sliced filet mignon, truffle oil and goat cheese.


FROM LEFT: Emanuele Bearzi (left) with his wife, Fiorella, and brother Roberto at Fratelli Milano; below, the restaurant’s pearand Taleggio-stuffed pasta

Two more Italian spots, Puntino Downtown and Tre Italian Bistro, also popped up last year. Puntino (353 SE Second St., 305-371-9661; puntinodowntown.com) serves the owner’s Naples-style cuisine and looks plucked out of Midtown Manhattan, with pop-art-meets-Roman Empire portraits on the walls, while Tre (270 E. Flagler St., 305- 373-3303; tremiami.com) takes a fusion route, with innovative dishes such as moqueca, a bouillabaisse-like stew from northern Brazil of white fish, shrimp, mussels and clams with coconut-milk broth, toasted coconut and rice.

Over on Southeast First Avenue, there’s a courtyard that gives you no reason to walk into it, but if you do you’ll find Thai Angel (152 SE First Ave., 305-371-9748; thaiangelmiami.com). It feels almost quaint (in a suburban Bangkok kind of way) and is owned by Yui Amporn, who worked for seven years at her brother’s Thai House on South Beach before opening downtown. She demanded that I try the pad Thai (the dish by which I measure all Thai restaurants), which her aunt makes with the extra-thin noodles Amporn prefers. As I was leaving, pro kickboxer Remy Bonnel, who trained in Thailand, walked in. “Ah, you found my place,” he said.

Across the street from Thai Angel is Wok Town (119 SE First Ave., 305-371-9993; woktown.com), from Miss Yip and Domo Japones vet Shai Ben-Ami, who’s a co-owner. It’s more of a counter-service place, with a bright-orange and white design and long communal tables made from recycled compressed plywood. They’ve put together a Pan-Asian menu with standouts such as oversize bowls of spicy Singapore-style curry with thin rice noodles tossed with beef, shrimp or salty strips of barbecued pork.


FROM LEFT: CVI.CHE 105 chef Juan Chipoco and the restaurant’s conchitas a la Parmesana

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