Designer Roberto Cavalli brings his eye for fashion to South Beach, a place with a taste for food and design, with Cavalli Miami Restaurant & Lounge.

 Cavalli Miami
At the new Cavalli Miami, designer Roberto Cavalli’s unmistakable style extends to the table settings, including plates from his home collection

When it comes to Italian restaurants on South Beach, there’s nothing quite like the new Cavalli Miami Restaurant & Lounge. The two-story villa is downright opulent: unmistakable exotic animal prints and distinctive florals, oversize chandeliers, and mirrored accents.

Larger-than-life photographs of Roberto Cavalli line the walls as a tribute to the man whose career in fashion started in the early ’70s and has expanded to include many artistic roles. With Cavalli Miami, the Italian designer, entrepreneur, vodka maker, vintner, and restaurateur set out to create a high-profile venue for experiencing fashion, food, and design, or the tre eccellenze,” as he calls them.

“Cavalli Miami is for the man with his new girlfriend,” says Cavalli, playfully, with his thick Italian accent. Everything about it is destined to entertain.

Executive Chef Stefano Mazzi
Executive Chef Stefano Mazzi produces dishes rooted in his northern Italian heritage

To impress a date and other discerning palates upon arrival, bar manager Lorenzo Cassano crafted the High Roller, a Champagne cocktail made from a combination of Perrier Jouët “Belle Epoque,” Rémy Martin Louis XIII, Angostura bitters, and a brown sugar cube, for $450. The remaining cocktails on the list are more accessible and inspired by the flavors of Italy. Expect to drink a lot of Italian aperitivos, liqueurs, and vermouth, along with Cavalli’s eponymous vodka, produced entirely in Italy.

Although the atmosphere of the restaurant is extravagant, the food is authentic and rooted in the tradition of Executive Chef Stefano Mazzi’s northern Italian upbringing. (Mazzi is no stranger to the fabulous world of Cavalli; he was Cavalli’s personal chef on his yacht five years ago in Florence.) The pastas are made using Mazzi’s grandmother’s recipe: fresh eggs, flour, and a rolling pin. This seemingly simple formula yields a must-try spaghetti that’s then tossed with fresh Florida lobster and baby Sardinian artichokes to balance the richness of the crustacean. The extraordinary gnudi Fiorentini, dumplings made with ricotta cheese and spinach and dressed with brown butter and sage sauce, is based on a recipe from a childhood friend. The risotto Portofino was inspired by the picturesque fishing village of Portofino, near Mazzi’s hometown of Genoa, where it’s common to add a touch of curry to the creamy rice dish with grilled Sicilian prawns (something that’s relatively unheard of here).

Tuscan Chianina beef tartare with quail egg, light mustard, and truffle salt
Tuscan Chianina beef tartare with quail egg, light mustard, and truffle salt

Before you decide on your selections for dinner, consult Cavalli’s sommelier, Matias Benjamin Vergara. His advice for wine pairings is invaluable. He may suggest a 2012 Chablis from Burgundy with high minerality (stony and acidic) to complement Mazzi’s favorite dish, the Mediterranean octopus carpaccio. As you move toward the main course, the 2010 Tenuta degli Dei, a red wine produced at Cavalli’s family vineyard in Tuscany, is a likely recommendation. When Vergara suggests the Passito di Pantelleria by Abraxas (sweet wine made from Moscato) to accompany one of the six stellar desserts, say grazie.

Post-dinner, the ultralounge upstairs encourages guests to dance the night away in signature Cavalli style, surrounded by zebra and jaguar prints. Cavalli, who also owns nightlife venues in Milan and Dubai, enlisted the support of restaurant and nightlife impresarios Karim Masri and Nicola Siervo of Miami Beach-based KNR Hospitality Group to manage the South Beach location and make sure there’s always something fresh for guests.

“I’ve had my evolution of food, fashion, and love. When I do something, I have to do it in a good way. Not in the middle,” says Cavalli.

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