Used to be that you couldn’t name ten worthwhile restaurants at which to dine in Coconut Grove. Still can’t, but we’re getting closer. When Ideas Restaurant opened two years ago it gave the food-deprived neighborhood its’ first fine upscale establishment since the nineties. The recently opened George’s In The Grove (next week’s review) joins Le Bouchon du Grove, Christabelle’s Quarter and The Knife as genuinely fun places to dine (although food at the latter two spots is nothing to drool over). And on July 22, Cita’s Italian Chophouse will debut at 3176 Commodore Plaza. While the opening of a new Italian restaurant in Miami-Dade is generally met with the same level of excitement as the unveiling of another Starbucks, this is, as I say, Coconut Grove.
Owner and longtime Grove resident Ed Benitez and Italian-born chef Carlo Macaluso have compiled a chophouse menu of mostly steaks, seafood, and pastas. Dishes include meatballs topped with ricotta; lobster cakes with lemon aioli and wild fruit compote; saffron pasta shells stuffed with Maine lobster ragout in tarragon cream; grilled Atlantic salmon drizzled in truffle honey mustard; all sorts of grilled steaks; and for dessert, a cotton candy cheesecake lollipop tree with whipped cream and amarena cherry. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll skip dessert.
Benitez has expressed a strong commitment to making Cita a topnotch dining destination, and it appears he has his ducks lined up to do exactly that. One might wonder, though, if the rather high prices will put a damper on his idea of creating “the kind of restaurant that I would visit regularly.” With appetizers $12 to $22, pastas $18 to $32, risottos $26 to $34, and entrees mostly in the $30 and $40 range, Benitez may find that he is the only one who can afford to be a regular. As a fine dining destination, however, Cita looks poised to become one of the Grove’s elite.