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"Without the freedom to criticize, there is no worthy praise." Beaumarchais
Regional Italian fare in the heart of South Beach.
By Simone Zarmati Diament
In a spot that saw a number of reincarnations, including the Sports Café and BAires Grill, I Corsini has made the best of the outdoor garden space – a welcome oddity in South Beach - turning it into a romantic enclave in the midst of the bustle of Washington Ave.
Indoors, it has been remodeled into a casually elegant restaurant with a well-frequented bar that serves the inevitable specialty cocktails as well as wines by the glass with little bites.
The moderately-priced menu lists regional, down-to-earth Italian specialties from Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. That is because the owner Roberto Corsini is from Florence, Tuscany, and the executive chef Giuseppe (Beppe) Galazzi, is from Ferrara in Emilia Romagna. Beppe, a former chef at Sardinia Restaurant in Miami Beach, has cooked his way through Italy and around the world, honing his skills in fine restaurants in Australia, Cyprus, Finland and Cape Verde, among other destinations before arriving in Miami in 2003.
The wine list includes very reasonable bottles of both red and white from $29 and up, among which we found a delicious Refosco from Friuli at $29.
The menu lists soups such as ribollita, a hearty, bread thickened Tuscan soup, as well as freshly made salads and antipasti ranging from $7.00 to $18.00.
Our well-seasoned Caprese was rich with ripe, juicy tomatoes and Mozarella di Buffala drizzled with pesto, a pungent olive oil from the Abruzzi and balsamic vinegar. While the Fritto Misto with fried calamari and shrimp was bland, the Panzanella, a rustic salad of ripe tomatoes, olive oil and basil with day-old Tuscan bread chunks, made up for any lack of taste.
The Burrata, a fresh mozzarella pouch stuffed with thick, runny cream is served with fava beans and drizzled with honey truffle tomatoes, a better choice than the crab salad with corn kernels and greens.
Starters include specialties such as braised honeycomb tripe with black olives, pine nuts and rosemary.
One could actually make a meal just from that part of the menu.
But where the restaurant truly shines is with Pastas ($14.00-$18.00).
They are all made in-house from flour imported from Italy, and definitely worth going back for: silky tagliolini with fresh sea urchin imported from Japan; fabulous tortellini stuffed with pumpkin and sautéed in butter, sage and pistachios and wide ribbons of supple pappardelle topped with a deep, earthy, unmistakably North Italian slowly braised wild boar ragout, among others.
Main courses ($18-$84) lists Mediterranean seafood selections like zuppa di pesce -- the classic bouillabaise-like soup served with crusty garlic bread; a wonderful dish of sweet and very fresh Maine scallops, topped with pesto and roasted on the shell over a base of sweet potatoes and basil pesto. There is grilled Spanish octopus served with grape tomatoes and capers from Pantelleria.
However our fish dish was oily and dry. The best thing about that dish was the accompanying chards and melt in your mouth potatoes. Then comes the meat.
On the menu, meat dishes run the gamut from a simple grilled skirt steak served with salad and tomatoes gratin to filet mignon served on a bed of Portobello mushrooms with a Chianti reduction, and the classic Tuscan Bistecca all Fiorentina – available in sizes ranging from 20 oz up to 48 oz - with roasted potatoes and vegetables. As we wanted to try it all, we chose a mixed grill with steak, lamb chop, grilled chicken, sausage and stuffed tomato with chopped meat. We didn’t have much luck there either. Other than the lamb chop which was well-cooked and tasty, everything else on the wooden tray it is served on, which looks like a left over from the previous Argentine tenant BAires Grill, was dry and overcooked.
Desserts ($7.00 to $8.00) are traditional Italian: a ricotta cheese soufflé with lemon, a spicy red pepper chocolate mousse and a wine soaked zuppa inglese, among others.
I would definitely return to I Corsini for the wonderfully romantic outdoor garden with palm trees and plants sheltered from the street by a thick and tall hedge. The service is surprisingly good, the pastas are outstanding and so are the salads as well as some of the regional specialties which give a taste of regional Italy in the heart of South Beach.