If you’re in the mood for a romantic Italian dinner but are sick of waiting for a gondola to pull up on Miami Beach, head over to Perricone’s Marketplace & Cafe. Hidden amid the skyscrapers of Brickell, this popular restaurant and Italian market boasts one of the most romantic dining experiences you’ll find in the city, so grab your sweetheart and set off on a culinary journey you’re bound to enjoy.
Be prepared, as a meal here is not without its challenges. The first: Figuring out where to sit. The place is a patchwork of inviting corners, any of which would be the perfect backdrop for a romantic meal. Do you aim for that cozy, rustic area with the warm wooden finishes? Maybe the more elegant spot on the opposite side, with the pastoral frescoes decorating the walls? You eventually ask for a table on the outdoor patio, and are delighted when you’re ushered to secluded spot beneath a vine-covered trellis.
Your next challenge? Selecting the food and drink. Here you’re in luck, as you can just pop over to the market part of the establishment, browse the wine racks, and pick a bottle to enjoy with your dinner. Make your selection, and a staff member will uncork and serve it for you.
Meanwhile, your date has been busy scanning the menu, and lands on Grandma Jennie’s heavenly lasagna. If your concept of lasagna is of heavy bricks of pasta layered with rubbery cheese, Perricone’s version — rich and flavorful yet surprisingly light — is a revelation. Gigi’s eggplant parmigiana is another favorite, as its served with a delightful whole wheat penne pomodoro. Be sure to leave room for dessert, of course. Perricone’s chocolate house cake is something to be savored and celebrated, with chocolate and hazelnut flavors that dance a tarantella within a rich chocolate ganache.
After your unforgettable chocolate cake, you and your date get the pleasure of further exploring the Italian market at Perricone’s. Your cooking skills aren’t nearly good enough to recreate the meal you just had, but you can at least pick up some aged cheese, cured meats, and pâtés for an elegant little platter at home. Better throw in some chocolate and another bottle of wine. OK, two bottles of wine. You consider a bottle of olive oil, too, but decide against it — you’ll leave that purchase for next time.