Monday, December 07, 2009

Tutto Pasta and Zucchero, Miami, Florida

A few years ago, I was nominated for the Godmother of Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  I made the top one hundred finalists and, as such, was invited to Miami to sail with the other finalists on the relaunch of the Majesty of the Seas after their dry dock and refurbishment.  I was allowed to bring a guest so I invited my dear friend and forensic nurse colleague, Sherry Arndt.  I took an overnight flight from San Francisco but Sherry wasn't due to arrive until evening.  I was ravenous so my hotel recommended a litttle place about a block from them - Tutto Pasta.  Little did I know, that restaurant would become one of the top favorites of my lifetime and its owner and chef, Joao Carlos Oliveira - who most people call, Juca, would become a friend!

I walked over from the hotel and found myself in a rather crowded restaurant that had both outdoor dining and inside tables, plus counter seats that looked onto the open kitchen where several cooks were busy preparing meals for their patrons.  The menu was quite extensive, with all sorts of temptation and I was told that Tutto Pizza, next door, also belonged to Chef Juca
I was waited on by a very charming young man, Christian Escuti, from Latin America who knew
everything about the menu and was well informed on the many wine choices.

While Tutto Pasta is basically an Italian restaurant, Juca, who is from Brazil, adds his own special touch to the dishes.  They are unique and tantalizing.  Tutto Pasta began delighting visitors in 1994 and the Miami Herald named this restaurant one of the best in Dade County. On my first visit, I was so impressed at lunch, I brought my friend, Sherry, back for dinner and I
ordered the exact same meal!!  Tutto's passion fruit mousse is to die for ( I had two at lunch that 
first day )!  

When Chef Juca saw me back that same evening, he came over to say hello.  Sherry and I were delighted when a complimentary focaccia di capra - a focaccia with truffle oil and goat cheese -
joined the parade of other fabulous food we ate that evening.

The wonderful facaccia di capra - with truffle oil and goat cheese

Mozzarrella with tomatoes,  and basil

Facaccia Salad

Arugula, goat cheese, and figs - my favorite salad on the menu - I have it every time I eat
at Tutto Pasta

Ever since I visited Argentina and went to Mendoza in the Andes, where they grow the grapes
for Malbec wines, they have been one of my favorite reds.  This Pascual Toso was 
wonderful and I had two bottles in one day!  My friend, Sherry, arrived to help me with the second one!

Rare ahi with shrimp, scallops, arugula and mango salsa

With wonderful waiter, Christian Escuti, during one of my early visits to Tutto Pasta

Lamb chops with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables

My favorite dessert, passionfruit mousse - I have been known to eat two at a meal!

Passionfruit mousse on my November 2009 trip to Tutto Pasta

Sherry Arndt and me with Chef Joao  ( Juca ) Carlos Oliveira on our first trip to Tutto Pasta

The great guys behind the dishes 

November 2009 visit - Gabriel, who is managing Tutto Pasta since Chef Juca has opened
Zucchero, his new restaurant  - and my favorite waiter, Christian

Whenever a cruise brought me to Florida, I would fly into Miami so I could eat at Tutto Pasta, even if it meant renting a car and driving the 220 miles to sail out of Port Canaveral!

Just this past month, I was invited by Royal Caribbean to sail for the weekend on their new mega ship the Oasis of the Seas, complimentary, in a balcony cabin, and I was allowed to bring one guest with me.  I invited a forensic nurse friend from San Diego.  We were due to sail on Friday, November 20th but I flew into Ft. Lauderdale on Wed, November 18th, rented a car and headed to Miami.  After checking into the Hyatt Regency, I went immediately to Tutto Pasta.  It had been an entire YEAR since I had last been there.  Much to my delight, my favorite waiter, Christian Escuti was on duty and I was warmly greeted by him and other staff.  I had a wonderful dinner and heard the news that Chef Juca had opened a new restaurant, Zucchero, not very far from
Tutto Pasta.  Someone called to let him know I was in town and would be there for dinner the following night.

I checked out of the Hyatt at noon on Thursday, stopped by Tutto Pasta for lunch and drove to
Ft. Lauderdale to meet my friend, Claire Nelli, at our hotel there.  After a brief rest, we were on 
the road to Miami again.  

We arrived  at Zucchero and were quite impressed with the new restaurant.  Since Juca was busy cooking, we chose to sit at the counter rather than dining at a table.  It was the perfect spot to get a look at the procession of fabulous dishes.  The aromas emanating from the stove were

Zucchero Restaurant, Miami, Florida

Zucchini flower stuffed with cheeses

Zucchero chefs at work - Angelo, left and Juca, right

Wonderful appetizers

Linguini pasta with shrimp and mussels

Outstanding staff at Zuchero

Kobe beef meatballs

Chef/owner Joao Carlos Oliveira - Juca - 
of Tutto Pizza, Tutto Pasta, Zucchero, and Tutto Pasta Factory

Interior of Zucchero's

Insalata di rucula

Gnocchi di papate verdi, cannelloni with crabmeat, ravioli di arigosta

Cheers - with great sangria!

Cannelloni with stuffed crabmeat



Angelo and Juca

Pave with coconut and pineapple

Soffiato di guayaba - running a close second in my favorite list to that passionfruit mousse -
this is a guava concoction with  a hot guava filling that runs out when punctured!

Angelo, chef at Zucchero

Claire Nelli and Carmen Henesy at Zucchero

We were so stuffed after our wonderful evening at Zucchero, it was hard to navigate the thirty miles back to our Ft. Lauderdale hotel.  I felt sad saying goodbye to Chef Juca and was sad I hadn't gotten to see his lovely wife, Patricia, this visit.  Now  that I'm retired, I have no idea when I'll be back in Miami since the change in my income doesn't allow me to travel as I once did.  During my working life, a whole year without eating at Tutto Pasta would have been unthinkable!

During this time of recession, both of Juca's restaurants are offering incredible specials to allay some of the costs of dining out.  If you are in the Miami area, be sure to call and find out what they are.  One night a week, wines are fifty percent off and, other nights, pastas have special pricing.  

Living in the San Francisco area, I am used to a huge choice of excellent retaurants.  Chef Juca's Miami restuarants can compete with the best of these!  I wish I could move Juca and Tutto Pizza, Tutto Pasta, Tutto  Pasta Factory and Zucchero out here.  Believe me, if he ever opens West Coast branches in this area, I'm going to ask him to let me  handle his public relations!  I am one of his biggest fans!


  1. Gosh, that facaccia di capra looks good... along with every other dish in this post!! Cheers, Carmen!

  2. Looks like a great restaurant to visit, and so many wonderful dishes..

  3. It is the best happiness to eat a delicious thing at a wonderful place.

    Wine looks delicious.

  4. fullet - I love Juca's two restaurants - too bad
    Miami is over 2500 miles from San Francisco!

    Icy BC - truly, those restaurants are worth a
    detour when I'm anywhere in the lower half of Juca is a friend now and I love
    to see him.

    ruma2008 - you describe it perfectly - it is THE
    BEST HAPPINESS to eat good food at special
    places! I do love good wine - and sake is
    rice wine - so good sakes as well!

  5. My goodness, what a bunch of hunk cooks. Congratulations on your honors and your many adventures. I've actually never been on a cruise ship. Maybe my day will come.

  6. OMGGGGG!!!!Hahahaaa....I'm rolling out of my Chair, here!!!! I'm FULL!
    Everything looks Great!!hughugs

  7. what a yummy post! cannelloni with crab meat had me drooling all over the keyboard. you all look so lovely and radiant and why not! enjoyed my trip here. :)

  8. Anonymous7:04 PM

    Love the plating! And oh my word that passionfruit mousse looks wonderful!

  9. sellmoremeals - I cannot tell you how wonderful
    that passionfruit mousse is! Thanks for
    stopping by that blog!

    Tongue Trip - I;m glad you stopped by my blog! I
    visited yours and it is lovely. I am now a

    Donna - if you ever stop at either of Juca's
    restaurants, you'll be hooked forever!

    Snowbrush - I wish I didn't love to eat so
    much! Between 88 cruises and loving to
    dine out, I am not the curvy girl of my

  10. What a mouthwatering food fest this post is! I love Italian food!!

  11. Anonymous2:13 PM

    the best Italian restaurant in Miami I love'it