Pepe Nero brings Italian flavor to Espanola Way

By Josie Gulliksen

A taste of Italy has come to Miami Beach’s quaint, European-inspired Espanola Way with the arrival of Pepe Nero Restaurant and Pepe Nero Bar. The striking corner location is ideal for people watching and comfortable furnishings make it even more relaxing.

The European-inspired wooden chairs with comfy cream-colored upholstery are a nice contrast to the long, narrow, tufted-back leather benches that are also used for seating. It’s almost as if owner Daniele Mossini wants diners to feel right at home when they’re enjoying his delectable food.

“We spent a lot of time and effort re-doing the interior and exterior. I care about the customers and I love this place. I have to love it, it’s the only way it will work,” Mossini said.

His effort paid off, resulting in an elegant restaurant with incredibly fresh, authentic Italian classics on one side and a casual bar with lighter food on the other. Pepe Nero Bar was originally an Irish Bar that Mossini and his staff converted into more of a lounge where people can drop in for a light bite to eat, some great cocktails and more.

“We have a DJ at the restaurant during happy hour and in the lounge we feature live bands as well as the DJ. I want people to be able to flow from the bar inside to our sit-down casual area with ease and that’s what we’ve created,” he said.

The reason for the two separate areas, “I want to please all types of customers and attract diverse crowds,” he said.

The menus, collaboratively created by Mossini and his chef Antonio Montella, are brimming with delicate appetizers, fresh made pastas, hearty risottos and meat entrees along with delicious fish and seafood dishes. The two also agree that the food they serve must be the freshest available.

“We buy enough food to last us two days so it’s the freshest possible including our lobsters which we always buy fresh (meaning alive). We only buy them this way,” said Mossini.

Because of this, the menu is not overwhelming but still brimming with so many mouth watering dishes it’s hard to choose. Menu highlights include:

-A delectable appetizer of fresh burrata with prosciutto of parma and arugula -Decadent Fagottini al Tartufo, homemade fagotti pasta filled with a whipped black and white truffle butter in a truffle cream sauce topped with shaved truffles

-Branzino Al Sale for two, sea bass baked in a sea salt crust and served with sautéed vegetables

-Tris Pepe Nero, a light entrée beautifully presented on a long square dish featuring jumbo shrimp, perfectly seared sea scallops and a beautiful round salmon tartare with accompanying mustard sauce

-Hearty Ossobuco E Zafferano a robust three-inch veal Ossobuco covered in a hearty sauce served with saffron risotto

-A unique dessert, the chocolate soufflé with pistachio ice cream, a gorgeous mound of rich soufflé in the center with a mini-martini glass filled with creamy pistachio ice cream and a couple of dollops of fresh whipped cream with strawberries for garnish

The selection at Pepe Nero Bar is much lighter to fit with the casual ambiance. Here the menu features simple salads, pizzas, pastas, a few fried items and a selection of custom made sandwiches served a variety of ways. For folks preferring something closer to home their “American” Menu includes burgers, fries, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.

The bar features a nice selection of draft and bottled beers as well as mixed drinks but for something totally unique, try the restaurant bar where Mossini’s mixologist is creating his own blend of concoctions. The elegantly displayed fresh fruit is enough to entice anyone to sit down and sample something.

The drink menu features various sections. Under “Mixology” there’s the traditional Old Fashioned with bourbon and bitters, a traditional Pepe Nero Bloody Mary that features homemade black pepper and the Shanghai Cooler with dark rum, lime juice, homemade fig puree, root bitter liqueur and a cinnamon stick. Italian Classics & Vintage Drinks, Long Drinks and Nonalcoholic cocktails round out the remainder of the Mixology menu.

Another great way to sample both their food and drinks is during their Wednesday night happy hour from 7-9 p.m. where they feature a buffet of pasta and other hot food items as well as drink specials. They also plan to debut an Italian tapas night with nine small plate selections on Mondays and Tuesdays while Italian music plays in the background.

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