Viva Italia at La Locanda tiny spot with big European flair

By Josie Gulliksen

La Locanda restaurant owners Massimo Fortunato and Francesco Cavalletti have the market cornered on delectable and traditional Italian favorites from South and Central Italy with Massimo hailing from Napless while co-owner Francesco is from the Adriatic coast. In the South Massimo says pastas with rich sauce are common while in Italy’s Central section meats and filled pastas are the norm.

Tucked into a small space on the quieter side of South Beach, the restaurant is an homage to the homey, European restaurant, evoking the feel of a quaint Italian street complete with a semi-circular faux balcony with wrought iron and hanging potted plants and olive green shutters, brick walls and dark wood throughout. The small bar has four wooden, rugged stools and hanging wine glasses ready to be filled.

The décor, says Fortunato, is homey to match how they treat their customers, like family. And sitting down to dine here is like a family affair too, with dishes prepared with such care it’s like Sunday dinner with at an Italian house. Dishes feature delicate and robust sauces, freshly made pastas, meats and seafood.

Great starters include the mini meatballs simmered in a rich tomato sauce and the caprese salad, a cold appetizer of imported Italian buffalo mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. The pasta selections are endless but some standouts include a homemade corkscrew pasta with the restaurant’s homemade Bolognese sauce, penne with wild mushrooms in a light pink sauce drizzled with olive oil and the delicate homemade pasta purses filled with four cheese and pear in light cream sauce with arugula.

Other entrees besides pasta include the lightly breaded and grilled jumbo shrimp drizzled with a delicate lemon sauce and a thinly sliced NY steak served with a thick balsamic reduction sauce.

They all provide a true taste of Italy not soon to be forgotten.

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