At the start of last month, we put together a guide of the best Miami Spice restaurants this year. With over 190 restaurants participating in the promotion, one or two were bound to slip under our radar. Cibo Wine Bar in South Beach was one of them.
Before Miami Spice comes to an end on September 30, we suggest you pay this South of Fifth gem a visit. The wine bar, which opened around nine months ago, not only has exceptional Miami Spice selections but also some of the most beautiful decor we’ve seen. You can tell a lot of thought was put into this space, which dwarfs its Coral Gables’s sister location.
The Cibo experience starts before you even walk through the door. Make sure to spend some time outside the building: A Mr. Brainwash “Life is Beautiful” sign greets guests coming from the north side of the Beach; that’s also where you’ll find ample outdoor seating for people-watching. Once you actually step inside, you can head to the spacious bar area on your right or the main dining room on your left, the latter of which places you in full view of the open kitchen.
Our advice to you: Take your time exploring the 12,000-foot structure either before or after your meal. There’s more than meets the eye to the place. Keep walking to your left past the dining room to find a market where you can pick up Italian products to cook at home. Hop in the elevator and head to the third-floor rooftop for some scenic dining and a look at Cibo’s beer bar; the restaurant makes their own beer, grappa and limoncello. And of course, don’t miss out on the “Wine Angels,” who get in a harness to fly around the wine room and get your libation of choice.
But enough about your surroundings. We know you’re really here for the food. Cibo Wine Bar focuses on cuisine from Middle Italy. One of the highlights here is the pasta, which is made in house (more on that later). The cocktail program is also worth noting: Many of the drinks make heavy use of fresh, natural herbs instead of artificial syrups.
So first things first: the bread service. In a lot of places, bread service isn’t really something to get excited about. In our experience, the restaurants that put a little extra effort in this often ho-hum course tend to do that across the rest of the meal as well. While Cibo’s bread is great, the real stars are the red-flaked pitted kalamata olives. If you love olives, you won’t be able to put down these little balls of flavor; they’re super addicting.
Be mindful not to stuff your face with olives, though. The Miami Spice portions are large, so you’re going to need some room. Case in point: the sausage with broccoli rabe. This spicy meat complements the buttery broccolini rabe. The red chili flakes make an appearance here, too, so you know it has to be good. Together, the two delicious items create one tasty (and hearty) appetizer.
Diners who want something a little lighter should opt for the tuna carpaccio, a bright and colorful dish that comes with a stern warning from our server. The tuna and citrus on the plate are a magical combo. If you really want to light up your tastebuds, use the provided shaker of Parmesan cheese and jar of oil with chilies inside. Whatever you do, DO NOT EAT THE CHILIES. Our server told us to only use the oil to add some spice to the dish. The chilies will burn your mouth and make it feel like the nine circles of hell.
For entrees, the short rib and pappardelle caught our eye. The uber-tender short rib and gravy made us happy campers as did the enormous portion of polenta. The gorgonzola in the polenta wasn’t overpowering, and the polenta overall had just the right amount of creaminess. And oh yeah, there’s some crispy tempura fried onions for good measure. It was a texture trifecta: soft short rib, creamy polenta and crunch onions.
Equally impressive was the pappardelle, which did not skimp on the lamb ragu. Huge chunks of lamb contrasted nicely with the thin al dente pasta. There’s no other way to say this: It was perfectly perfect in every way.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve mentioned portion sizes quite a bit. Unlike other places that may provide you with a smaller version of items off the regular menu, the Miami Spice offerings here are the same size. Considering the size of the restaurant and its prime location on the beach, this is extremely surprising (and welcome). As our server put it, “It’s a nice romantic spot on the beach, but not ‘on the beach.'”
To bring our meal to a sweet close, we ordered the semifreddo and cannoli. If you want something on the lighter side, opt for the semifreddo. This beautiful “in-between ice cream and cheesecake” is lemony but has a sweetness akin to creme brulee. The dish is not heavy at all, and you probably won’t feel too guilty eating it. If you just want to go HAM and YOLO it up (did we say that right?), go for the cannolis. The shells are made in house, filled with some creamy goodness and topped with chocolate shavings. Trust us: It’s worth the calories.
This restaurant may have slipped under our radar initially, but it’s definitely on it now. If you’re looking for a great Miami Spice dinner on South Beach away from the crowds, give this South of Fifth restaurant a try. At $39, the Spice offerings are a steal.
Cibo Wine Bar – South Beach is located at 200 South Pointe Dr. Miami Beach. Check out their Miami Spice menu here. For hours of operation and other information, visit their official website or call 305-987-6060.