An Argentine hotel chain arrived a few years back to renovate the Art Deco Lennox Hotel Hotel Miami Beach, and a Kardashian-level legal drama played out during the years-long renovation. At the end of it all in 2019, South Beach ended up with a swanky boutique property and more recently an equally stylish restaurant, Amalia.
This just might be news to you, since Amalia arrived in January 2022 without the kind of fanfare used these days for the opening of new restaurants (we’re looking at you, Sexy Fish). Just the same, Amalia has a talented chef delivering some very good food to an attractive dining room, all of which just might help it overcome the quiet opening and, at 19th and Collins, a location that not all Miamians frequent.
The chef is Hernan Griccini, who learned to cook from his parents, owners of a bakery in the agriculture-rich Argentine province of Santa Fe. He climbed up the ranks at his first job at the Park Hyatt in Mendoza and spent years in esteemed kitchens in Argentina and Mexico. At Amalia, he’s working with a Mediterranean theme that’s largely Italian.
Like two-thirds of Argentines, Griccini has Italian roots, and it shows in the care he puts into dishes here. There’s the bed of arugula above smoky eggplant, and a hunk of burrata halved on a tomato salad served with a hunk of bread to sop up the sweet-tangy dressing. The gnocchi comes, like a lot of Argentinian-Italian dishes, swimming in a sea of gooey cheese, dotted with little islands of roasted tomatoes. The branzino is simply roasted and served above sautéed veggies, and the porcini ravioli in a rich cream sauce gets a surprising crunch from toasted hazelnuts—the best of the items we sampled.
The dishes are all attractively plated, matching the equally stylish space. The interior has a throwback look that seems like what you’d find in a hotel restaurant from the Art Deco era, with orange sherbert-colored plush chairs and matching light fixtures that look like fanned-out butterfly wings. Everything else is beige except for the potted and wall-hanging plants that provide a pop of green. The outdoor area continues the same trend, with a retractable cover and a wall of plants that create a tucked-away feel even though it’s just off Collins Avenue.
Amalia is handsome and the dishes well-executed, and the place arrived with surprisingly little fanfare. You probably don’t make it to this part of South Beach for dinner often, and maybe you don’t think of Italian food coming from Argentina, but perhaps Amalia will convince you that you should.