Visiting Café Prima Pasta in North Miami Beach is pretty much like hopping on a plane, flying to New York City and taking a cab to Mulberry street, aka Little Italy.
The place has the same kind of charm, only the beach is two blocks east.
Walk in and you will find wooden walls clad with photos of celebrities, locals and family members in no particular order. It gives you the sense that you will be treated like family no matter who you are.
That particular Tuesday we had come for the weekly dinner party, “Green with Envy,” which features a tasting of vegetarian dishes paired with wine.
As a foodie, I’m always open to new things, but as a meat eater, I hoped I wouldn’t miss the protein in this meal. I was not disappointed.
We began our meal with hot bread served with herb butter for spreading and a fantastic chimichuri-style olive oil for dipping that had red pepper flakes for a nice kick.
The first course was a zucchini roll, a long slice of zucchini stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
The tomato and cheese make a delicious combination, while the zucchini adds texture all rounded out by the balsamic. Not missing any meat on this one.
This course was followed by a grilled vegetable platter which included eggplant, asparagus, red peppers and olives. All vegetables were fresh, crisp, and the dish included some basil pesto to spread.
This one was tasty, to be sure, but nothing unexpected. With appetizers done, the entrée courses awaited.
By this time, roughly 7:30 p.m., the restaurant’s dinner service was in full swing. There were few open tables to be had and waiters zipped back and forth between the kitchen and their tables. Even so, there were no more than 10 minutes between courses; the meal was well paced.
Dinner was accompanied by a Principato Pinot Grigio which was dry, crisp, and slightly fruity with an enjoyably mild acidic aftertaste.
It paired nicely with the cream sauce of the first entrée, which was the Fiocchi Rapera, little pasta purses stuffed with fontina cheese and Asian pear, with a truffle cream sauce. The tasting portion included three pieces, and they were indeed flavorful.
This dish was my favorite of the night. The pasta was al dente and the filling was sweet, with the fontina adding just the right amount of tartness. The truffle cream sauce was rich and sliced Portobello mushrooms added heartiness.
The fiocchi dish was followed by the Ravioli Porcini, multicolored ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms in a garlic pomodoro sauce. The dish was garnished with fresh cut basil, which added a wonderful aromatic effect. The sauce was slightly acidic; a nice balance to the rich mushroom mixture.
The final entrée was an Asian-style risotto made with brown rice. The rice was cooked in a veggie broth with soy sauce, carrots and peppers resulting in a sweet, nutty, very-much-Asian flavor.
Since it is not a cream and cheese based risotto, the chef uses a longer grain instead of the traditional Arborio rice. Though delicious, I definitely missed the creaminess of a traditional risotto; the chewy nature of brown rice just wasn’t doing it for me.
>While the $39.95 price point does not include dessert, you can order your choice of house-made tiramisu, profiteroles stuffed with ice cream and covered in a hazelnut dark chocolate sauce, and a decadent ricotta cheesecake.
Though all good options, the standout is the ricotta cheesecake with its light and airy creaminess and slight lemony flavor. It was truly memorable.
All in all, you can trust the restaurant to do the classics while still having unique-enough offerings for the Miami beach crowd, and for nights when you’re feeling adventurous.
With its friendly wait staff, warm ambiance and delicious food, Café Prima Pasta is a place you can frequent and never get bored.
Cafe Prima Pasta is located at 414 71 Street in Miami Beach. Call ahead to (305) 867-0106 to ask about daily specials.