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Address: 701 Washington Ave. Miami Beach
Phone: 305-673-1312
Hours: Open for dinner 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.; till midnight Fri.-Sat
Cuisine: Italian
Ambiance: Urban chic.
Service: Attentive, professional
Price Range: Appetizers - entrees $13-$29; desserts $8
Wines: Full bar and international wine list
Reservations: Suggested
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The food at Grazie is more homestyle with creative flair than complicated designer fare. Breads, desserts, and, of course, the fresh pasta, are made on the premises, portions are generous, and you definitely won't go away hungry.

By Jana Soeldner Danger

Grazie's in Pinecrest had outgrown its 50-seat space in a strip mall when partners Moshe Petel and Sprugeon Solomon, and executive chef Felix Pavon decided it was time to expand to a larger location in Miami Beach. But worry not, the restaurant offers the same tasty Italian to which a large clientele is already addicted

Designed by Petel and Spurgeon themselves, the interior is cozily elegant, a mix of upscale new-urban and timeless neighborhood bistro. Cherry wood columns and accents, along with soft amber lighting and solid cherry wood tables, lend warmth to the 75-seat dining room. Windows running the length of the restaurant offer a view of pedestrian traffic, silver spot lamps illuminate the small bar while soft jazz plays in the background. and a built-in cherry wood wine rack displaying rare bottles covers most of the opposite wall.

Solomon oversees Grazie's varied wine list with mostly Italian selections, but also interesting pours from Chile, Spain, and the US.

Surprisingly, none of the three partners is remotely Italian-Moshe Petel is Israeli, Solomon is a native of Honduras, and Pavon hails from Nicaragua. Petel and Solomon developed their passion for Italian food while working together for nearly a decade at Miami Beach's Osteria del Teatro. In 1997, they struck out on their own to open the first Grazie in Pinecrest.

The food at Grazie is more homestyle with creative flair than complicated designer fare. Breads, desserts, and, of course, the fresh pasta, are made on the premises, portions are generous, and you definitely won't go away hungry.

We began with seafood bisque ($14.95), one of the evening specials. Sherry accented the rich, creamy lobster broth, which contained a generous number of very fresh, perfectly cooked shrimp.

Grilling gave a wonderful smoky flavor to a large portabello mushroom cap ($12) topped with creamy, melted fontina cheese and served atop a thick tomato slice. The garlicky balsamic vinaigrette was the perfect finish for this tasty starter. Other appetizers include grilled shrimp ($18); fried mozzarella ($8); and a pesto crepe ($12) filled with fontina cheese.

Seafood linguine ($37.50), another evening special, was a tasty mix of impeccably fresh shrimp, tender Littleneck clams, and half of a sweet Maine lobster prepared in a delicious, creamy pink Alfredo sauce accented with brandy and a touch of tomato. All the seafood was perfectly cooked so it remained firm and flavorful, and the bed of house-made pasta was nicely el dente. The same mix of seafood was also available in a spicy diablo sauce.

Grigliata di mare ($29) is on the regular menu. It included fresh, firm salmon, shrimp, tilapia, and clams served in a flavorful Mediterranean-style pesto sauce accented with sun dried tomatoes. The accompanying puree of carrots, seasoned with nutmeg, brown sugar and cinnamon, and garlicky green beans added colorsand textures to the dish.

Among the other entrees are veal scaloppini with wild mushrooms ($23); lobster ravioli ($19), chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and porcini mushroom sauce ($19); and jumbo shrimp in a white wine and citrus sauce($32).

Fewer and fewer restaurants bother to make their own desserts, but Grazie is one of them that does. A tart made with tangy apples, melted caramel and dashes of cinnamon and ginger, had a melt-in-your-mouth, flaky crust. A pecan crust gave crunch to a dark, rich flourless chocolate cake garnished with amaretto whipped cream and white chocolate chips. There's also a different kind of cheesecake offered every night.

Grazie combines casual comfort with urban elegance, and serves flavorful, traditional Italian fare at moderate prices. It's a good place to take your appetite.
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