Finding comfort at Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz
It was the day after the Election, and even though I may have preferred to stay curled up in the fetal position, I knew that getting out and being with people was probably better therapy. I wanted a soothing spot with good food and decided to venture to the SLS Brickell to Michael Schwartz’s new Italian restaurant, Fi’lia.
From the moment we walked into the entrance, accessible only through the rather austere SLS lobby, the airy décor designed by Philippe Starck with it’s warm lighting, blond wood furniture and open kitchen felt welcoming and pleasing to my rather frayed nerves.
We were shown our table and I immediately noticed the miss-matched chairs, a mix of Scandinavian and mid-century style and are a nice design touch. We could see the bustle at the well-lit kitchen, the various other diners around us and the rolling wooden cart for the tableside prepared Caesar Salad.
Not since a dinner many years ago at Berns Steakhouse in Tampa have I seen the tableside Caesar offered and it gave me further comfort that evening as I remembered back to simpler times when that was a key feature of a fine dining experience.
Fi’lia is both classic and creative Italian, as James Beard winning chef, Michael Schwartz incorporates both the casual feel of a Michael’s Genuine and Harry’s to the more elegant feel of Cypress Tavern and the former Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh to both the surroundings and the menu. Prices were surprisingly affordable with many pastas and entrees in the $18-29 range. The Caesar salad is meant to be shared, and priced at $20. Wine list is extensive with a knowledgeable Somm offering suggestions we were pleased with.
The warm bread and olive oil were presented by our server, who snipped a couple leaves off the oregano herb pot centered on our table and dropped them into the glistening golden olive oil.
We started with the Caesar Salad, which was prepared on a rolling cart complete with traditional wooden bowl and a side grill, where a garlicky and buttery bread is grilled and then cut up into freshly made croutons. The preparation included the mashing and whisking of fresh garlic, anchovy, lemon juice, mustard and a raw egg yolk, bright green romaine is tossed in, plated and topped with the warm croutons and fresh parmesan. TIP: If you like anchovies like I do, ask for a side plate to add on top. I was feeling much better already.
Other notable starters included the Hearty Meatballs with Whipped Ricotta and Garlic Toast to mop up the rich tomato sauce, and one of our favorites, the Butternut Squash Sformato with pecorino crema was a custardly delight.
For pasta dishes, the Rigatoni Bolognese was classically prepared, but could have used a bit more flavor to the meat sauce. But the Corn Agnolotti was a winner. Creative and flavorful, the delicate creamy corn filled agnolotti were in a roasted lobster sauce with multiple chunks of lobster meat and fresh tomato. The Braised Short Rib Crespelle arrived as a cheesy delight bubbling in it’s own pan with béchamel, taleggio and fontina cheeses.
We opted to stay with classic comfort dishes for our main courses, and ordered both Sam’s Chicken Parm (named for SBE Group CEO, Sam Nazarian), and the Wood Grilled Chicken both priced at $25 or under and large enough to share. The Chicken Parm was tender and topped with plenty of rich tomato sauce and cheese, a real crowd pleaser, and the Wood Grilled Chicken was both sweet and savory with a crispy herbed skin, bread pudding, pine nuts and currants.
We look forward to returning to try some of the many pizzas, especially the traditional Margherita and Pistachio and Pesto and Leek and Potato pizza with pancetta, and a number of the other pasta and main dishes like the Wood Grilled Pork Chop and Leg of Lamb.
The vibe is hip but relaxed and as Brickell continues its progression towards more creative and less business-oriented dining, we look forward to returning to Fi’lia many more times.
1300 South Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33130
305 239 1330
Reserve on Open Table