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Return Engagement

BY Jen Karetnick | August 24, 2017 | Feature Features National

With its stellar Italian menu and gregarious staff, Zucca makes a strong case for the comeback of the neighborhood restaurant.
Grilled octopus with haricot verts, potatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes and parsley pesto

Many Miami diners have become one-and-doners. The culinary map has expanded so rapidly here that it seems impossible to hit all the high points, let alone get back to them for a second go-round. So we visit the hottest new restaurant to say we’ve been there, done that, then move on to the next one. We’ve become epicurean tourists in our own town, rarely transforming into regulars anywhere.

Perhaps that’s why I found both the service and clientele at Zucca, the Italian restaurant that recently opened inside Coral Gables’ legendary Hotel St. Michel, so refreshing. Diners are greeted familiarly—some by name, others at least with facial recognition. Solo patrons comfortably twirl forkfuls of linguini with clams in white wine sauce or dig into hefty meatballs topped with a dollop of ricotta. Even newcomers are almost physically embraced. It’s clear that return customers are both the objective and the norm.

The lobby setup of this historic property allows for the informal, cozy intimacy between restaurant staff and clientele. The host stand is accessible in the hallway upon entrance, and visitors are immediately greeted. On one side of the foyer, the long, narrow Zucca Bar offers, in addition to a row of tables, a white marble-topped bar and a magnificent, glass-enclosed wine cellar that contains 1,000 bottles. On the other, a more formal dining room features a chic, romantic interior that contrasts tufted leather seating and rose gold accents with lanterns and hanging green moss.

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