Making your own pasta, a cocktail lab and truffle season! How Scott Conant's Scarpetta Restaurant in the Fontainebleau stays spot-on as it approaches a decade of service.
Scarpetta’s creamy Polenta with fricassee of truffled mushrooms.
When award-winning chef Scott Conant opened legendary Miami Beach hot spot Scarpetta in 2008, he was mere months off a highly acclaimed launch of the same restaurant in Manhattan. Breaking the mold of New York eateries arriving in Miami years after their emergence, Conant paved the way for respected international chefs to embrace the South Florida culinary scene head-on. Almost a decade later, Scarpetta is still one of the city’s most sought-out dining destinations, serving spot-on Italian in a chic nautical haven. With no intention of slowing down, Conant talks to us about his newest concepts, including monthly pasta classes and a dazzling cocktail “lab.”
How has Scarpetta managed to remain so popular after almost 10 years? The idea has always been about old-world hospitality: While the location in the iconic Fontainebleau is certainly a huge draw—it’s a great anchor—it’s really about taking care of diners in a city that’s not necessarily known for service. The intention, notes Conant, has always been to have the team buy in that the service is the most important aspect of the dining experience, and food is the follow-up to that experience.
Tell us about the monthly pasta classes with chef de cuisine Neil O’Connell. It seems like the interest in pasta is increasing on a daily basis. One of the challenges of being open for nine years is staying relevant—making sure the things you did nine years ago haven’t become taken for granted. So I think having some hands-on, interactive, personalized conversation with your customers is necessary.
What led you to introduce Sorso cocktail lab (which features creative infusions, a separate menu and a social hour)? Between the popularity of cocktails and the craft approach, there is just a lot of interest. Again, it’s about moving forward, having these fun ideas and being able to execute them with a willing team. Sorso has been a great way to do that as well as utilize that beautiful front area.
Scarpetta’s upscale dining room.
Have you always been into cocktails? I’ve been more of a wine guy, quite frankly. I like scotch; I like a mixed drink periodically, maybe a Negroni. But it’s not about me—it’s about the client base! Bob Dylan had a quote, ‘To be in a constant state of becoming,’ and that has always resonated with me.
It’s truffle season. What are your favorite ways to use the coveted fungus? I’ve spent a lot of time in Piedmont where white truffles are from, and I really like tajarin—it’s a traditional pasta in Piedmont with double-zero flour and egg yolks only. You toss it in a little butter, [add] a touch of Parmesan cheese, and shave truffles over the top. Also, we’ll do the polenta with truffles; that’s one of the classic dishes.
The raw yellowtail served with olio di zenzero and pickled red onion.
How have you seen the Miami dining scene change since opening in 2008? It’s been an amazing transformation on the Beach, Downtown and in the Design District. I’m always excited to see what’s next. There’s just so much talent! 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.674.4660, fontainebleau.com