may find it a bit confusing when searching
for Tulipano. The restaurant, a delightful
North Miami Beach fixture since 1982,
which had changed ownership but had kept
the same name and the same chef, has become
Tulipano Centodieci after its 110th
Street location. Il Tulipanos original
owner, Filippo II Grande, has returned,
and so has its original chef, Sandrino,
with a menu very similar to the original.
All of this shuffling resulting in a brighter
room, and a smooth transition to yesteryear,
with enticing dishes influenced by all
twenty regions of Italy.
Grande, who took five years off to cultivate
olive trees in his native Italy, is a
wine expert whose former list rivals all
others except for The Forge, he said as
he proudly showed off the Wine Spectator
Award for one of the ten best wine lists
in restaurants. While Centodiecis
current list is modest in choices, those
offered are quality labels and vintages,
and the selections are expanding rapidly.
Centodiecis menu is traditional
with contemporary touches. Should you
desire the more elaborate Old World dishes,
such as ravioli stuffed with a runny egg,
call ahead, and chef Sandrino will prepare
them. Incidentally, Sandrinos real
name is Jesús Benitez. Hes
a Salvadoran who spends working vacations
in Italy, where he is welcomed as a fellow
statesman, due to his cooking skills.
as good as ever
Those skills shone in an evenings
special of mussels vino bianco ($12)
one dozen plump, sweet mussels steamed
in white wine and clam juice, and finished
with a topping of chopped olives, fresh
herbs, a fragrant virgin olive oil, a
bit of lemon, and gratinéed breadcrumbs.
The chef excels in seafood: a Ligurian
seafood salad ($10) filled with succulent
scallops, mussels, baby octopus, calamari,
and shrimp, served over mixed greens and
drizzled with fresh extra virgin olive
oil, lemon and garlic, is a real treat
when you can find octopus this tender,
and such fresh ingredients.
Both Sandrino and his boss believe in
quality ingredients. It shows in every
bite of a rustic yet heavenly dish like
pepperoni con acciughe ($9). Silky roasted
red, yellow and green peppers are bathed
in a fragrant olive oil from a
cousins estate in Calabria, said
Mr. Il Grande with just a bit of
salt and pepper, fresh garlic, herbs and
topped with anchovy fillets. Sandrino
uses only baby octopus in the unassuming
yet deliciously rich polipetti ($10);
the shellfish are boiled in lemon and
red wine until soft, sliced, roasted and
stewed with chopped onions, fresh tomatoes
and more red wine, and served over a soft
polenta for a distinct contrast in textures.
There are plenty of pastas, including
a homemade agnolotti tritico ($14) stuffed
with spinach, ricotta, pistachios and
prosciutto, and topped with pesto, light
cream and tomato sauces, honoring the
green, white and red of the Italian flag.
Gnocchetti ($12) in a creamy four cheese
sauce are simple potato gnocchi, but how
could they be better? For those who like
strong flavors, candele ($14) two-foot-long
candlestick pasta typically used in Naples
are coated with a fiery sauce made
of tomato, garlic, white wine, and olive
oil, kicked up with Andouille sausage.
Entrees are well executed classics, almost
all accompanied by the same sides, which
change daily. The pan-seared snapper ($19)
is a light, moist fillet that melts like
butter on the tongue, presented over a
bed of capers, olives, onions and shallots.
A tender roasted duck ($21), cooked for
hours so its properly crisped, forgoes
the typical sweetness of fruit toppings
in favor of a spicy mélange of
sausage, pancetta, fresh herbs and veal
Lamb shank ($18), prepared with a fine
mirepoix, fresh herbs, red wine and crushed
tomatoes is slowly roasted to perfection,
taste and consistency. Osso buco ($29),
on a bed of creamy al dente saffron risotto
Milanese, is Centodiecis signature
dish. The oversized portion of veal shank
is lovingly roasted for two hours with
red wine, tomatoes and a variety of vegetables,
to a moist and silken bite. The meat is
tender enough to fall away from the bone.
And dont forget the marrow.
Desserts are something to look forward
to, especially Sandrinos legendary
ricotta cheesecake ($7), which is a cult
dessert. What appears to be a tall, sturdy
cake with a toasted slivered almond crust,
is actually a light and fragile delight
studded with candied fruit. We couldnt
have enough of it. Another cult dessert
is the inimitable whole caramelized orange
or grapefruit ($7) sitting on a thick
pineapple ring macerated in a light sauce
of honey, Kahlúa and apricots.
The sweet acidity of the sectioned fruit
bursts on the tongue, in contrast to the
hard caramel on the strips of caramelized
Mr. Il Grande calls the new Tulipano Centodieci.
But dont be confused nothing
has changed in the same old place. And
you wouldnt want it any other way.
Biscayne Blvd., North Miami.
to 11 p.m. weekdays, till midnight
on Saturday, closed Sunday.
the 20 regions of Italy.
$7-$12, entrees from $10-$31.
growing list of quality domestic and
A choice selection of domestic and
international labels at respectable
the back room.
Goldberg is a dining critic and a freelance