Lorenzo: Classy Italian Eats in South Beach
Sitting on the front porch at Lorenzo in South Beach on a bright afternoon, a crew of reality TV stars bickers in French. They reek of cologne and spray-on tan. The leader, a stern man with slick hair and a crisp button-down shirt, looks like a portly Bruce Jenner. His wife, wearing white sunglasses and her brown hair gathered in a pink scrunchie, ignores the gawking bystanders.
billwisserphoto.com Spaghetti alla Nadia at Lorenzo
There are more pressing matters to attend to at the moment -- such as the fight that's about to break out for the cameras.
A dude in a silk blouse stands up, hollers at a brawny guy in a Miami Beach tank top, and
then storms off-set. It makes for great television. But then a blond producer leaps out from
behind the camera; she asks him to come back and redo a line or two.
"It's a fake French reality TV show," explains our friendly Canadian waitress, who doubles as our translator for the afternoon. "They are arguing about a restaurant they all own."
It's also just another regular day in South Beach.
Tony Mantuano, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Lorenzo, is no stranger to
show business. He was featured on season two of Bravo's Top Chef Masters. But he's perhaps better known for something else. Mantuano is Barack Obama's favorite chef. According to the New York Times, the president swoons over Mantuano's wood-roasted scallops, a dish served at his Chicago restaurant, Spiaggia -- where the Obamas have celebrated several anniversaries, birthdays, and date nights.
Though his empire spans from the Windy City to his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Lorenzo is Mantuano's first venture outside the Midwest. Located on the ground floor of the new Redbury Hotel, across from the fabled Raleigh, the restaurant boasts tables topped with slim bottles of Mantuano's private-label extra-virgin olive oil. At the square wooden bar, which is fringed by glass containers stuffed with citrus and herbs, it's always time for a glass of Italian wine.
So what if the red velvet curtains, white leather chairs, and brass sculptures look a bit gaudy. This is South Beach, where a little excess is never out of place.
The food here can be just as bold. Braised lamb ribs are glazed in a thick blend of pome-
granate molasses, harissa, and aged balsamic vinegar. The meat's texture is fatty and sticky, beckoning to be eaten with your hands. Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and served alongside mint-flecked cucumbers, it is lovely.