It’s no secret that South Beach is home to a trendy food scene that attracts tourists, celebrities and locals alike. But with so many venues, it may be hard to find the true gems. Tucked inside the iconic, boutique Marlin Hotel—formerly owned by Island Records owner Chris Blackwell and where Jay Z, Beyoncé, U2, Janet Jackson, Aerosmith and others once recorded—on Collins Avenue is Osteria del Teatro, a chic Northern Italian restaurant that captures the stylish Art Deco District of South Beach yet delivers warm old-world comfort and hospitality for hotel guests and local diners alike.
With a nightly clientele of “Who’s Who” from South Florida, the award-winning Osteria del Teatro is a legend on South Beach, offering more of a neighborhood feel instead of a touristy destination. The original restaurant was located on Washington Avenue for more than 30 years before longtime owner Gilbert Gonzalez moved it to its current location three years ago. The locale offers diners an upscale yet intimate experience, where fond memories continue to be made. The interior features exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs and a lounge area, making for a comfortable dining experience.
The success of the restaurant extends beyond the kitchen and its team, the majority of whom have been cooking there for more than 30 years, to its professional, experienced waitstaff who provide stellar service and advice—most have been with the restaurant since it opened in 1987. The staff know all the regulars by name and treat first-timers as though they were family. And they know the menu.
“We pride ourselves on not only the quality and ingredients of the dishes we prepare, but on the level of service we provide. Our waitstaff are an integral component to our success,” says Gonzalez.
Dedicated to the Italian art of cooking, the menu offers traditional Northern Italian dishes influenced from the Bergamo region, but be sure to follow the advice of the waitstaff, who will suggest not only chef specials but “off-the-menu” dishes as well. Any meal here should begin with a selection from the extensive wine list. It features “Gilbert’s Selection” of distinct and limited allocation wines, along with a plethora of hand-selected reds and whites from Italy and around the world. You can order by the bottle or glass, which is served in a miniature decanter.
Cold and hot appetizers and salads are generously portioned and served with warm homemade bread and creamy butter. The burrata salad features fresh, locally made burrata cheese set upon a plate with sliced cherry tomatoes and garnished with fresh basil. An off-the-menu favorite among the regulars is the lobster, avocado and mango salad with black truffle vinaigrette.
Fresh, in-house handmade pasta is just one of the highlights of the menu, with both traditional and specialty pasta. Casonsei alla Bergamasca is handmade bow-tie candy-shaped ravioli with roasted veal stuffing, Parmesan cheese and crispy pancetta in a brown-butter sage sauce. Agnolotti al pesto features homemade pasta stuffed with ricotta and spinach, topped with a creamy pesto sauce. Pappardelle porcini is homemade pappardelle pasta made with porcini mushrooms then topped with a pink vodka sauce.
The pastas are complemented by traditionally prepared meat and poultry, and include traditional favorites pollo allo champagne, a pan-seared free-range chicken breast with sun-dried tomatoes and shallots in a creamy champagne sauce; pollo alla Parmigiana, a breaded free-range chicken breast covered with marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese and bufala mozzarella, then baked; and vitello al Madeira, veal scallopini with Madeira wine and wild mushrooms. Meat lovers will savor tagliata di manzo, a grilled then sliced Black Angus filet mignon served with a Barolo sauce.
Seafood is prevalent both on and off the menu, and you’ll find locally caught and imported varieties. An off-the-menu favorite is the South African black tiger shrimp marinated in olive oil and lemon then steamed and grilled in the shell and served with French green beans and scalloped potatoes. “We’ll serve it as long as we can get it,” says Gonzalez.
Snapper alla Francese highlights locally sourced red snapper that is lightly egg battered and sautéed in white wine, lemon and capers. Tonno al rosmarino features wild ahi tuna loin marinated, grilled and served with a shiitake mushroom, lemon-rosemary sauce.
The menu also offers a selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Aside from the menu and off-the-menu specialties, Osteria del Teatro offers daily specials listed on a blackboard near the entryway. A Twilight Special is served Sunday through Thursday (not during major holidays) after 10 p.m. for those enjoying the South Beach nightlife. There is a Happy Hour every day from 5 to 7 p.m., featuring $8 menu options of drinks and bites.
The dessert menu could be considered a second entrée as the portions are just as generous. House specialties are as regular as the clientele, and everything is made in-house. The tiramisu is classic and brought to the table in a glass bowl from which the waiter scoops out a generous portion—something you would expect Nonna to do. It’s light in texture due to the traditional mascarpone cheese, but melds beautifully with the flavor of the gourmet espresso. The flourless chocolate cake is a chocolate lover’s dream, with semisweet and dark chocolate melted together and topped with an unadulterated and indulgent homemade heavy whipped cream. Additional nightly offerings include a caramelized apple torte, pecan pie, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and a mixed berry and almond compote.
Osteria del Teatro makes every nonna proud.