In a city known for its beautiful and glamorous restaurants, Casadonna just might be the most beautiful and glamorous. It’s the restaurant equivalent of the supermodel breezing into a party of part-time influencers.
Inarguably, Casadonna’s $20 million build-out is stunning to behold. And like many of the beautiful and glamorous restaurants in Miami, that’ll likely be enough for most everyone. But could there be any book smarts to go with those looks?
To find out, I stood for a couple minutes among a dozen people with reservations waiting to be led into the back (a thing that happens at the handsomest of places). The grand foyer of the century-old Women’s Club (a building it shares with Klaw) is reminiscent of the grand central courtyard at Vizcaya. Two-story arched doorways lead inside and a gold and pink bar runs along one wall. Pastel tiles and light fixtures feel like we've entered the home of a flamboyant Venetian count.
A woman clutching menus and wearing a backless dress singles us out and leads the way into the main dining room. It’s all so grand, with faux-finish walls covered in mismatched art stacked up to the high ceilings and large circular booths and tablecloths in teals and pinks. She pushes open the doors to the waterfront terrace, and here is a third stunning space: tall metal trellises with new vines above rattan tables and chairs in more pink and teal, more semi-circle booths and another glamorous bar over on the side.
As far as what’s coming out of the kitchen, it’s the product of a new partnership between David Grutman’s Groot Hospitality and the Tao Group. While Grutman has become famous for clubby restaurants like Swan and Komodo that favor vibe over culinary, Tao is a worldwide restaurant chain with Michelin stars from London to Dubai. On paper at least, it’s like a beauty contestant got tutored by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
At Casadonna, they’ve put together a fairly straightforward menu covering a large gamut of Italian dishes. While we were split on whether the gooey texture of the shrimp carpaccio worked, we liked the simple citrusy crudo and the earthiness imparted by the grape leaves that blanketed the grilled langoustines. The bone-in veal chop had a nice sear, and a sage butter sauce doubled down on the richness of the tangy cheese inside the caramelle. The highlight came at the end: a chocolate cube that hid layers of cake, cream and mousse.
None of the dishes we had will keep this place in business. Most everyone will find the prices too high ($55 for two langoustines and $88 for the veal chop). But it’d be hard to imagine a better place along the intracoastal to spend an evening. Plus, it's impossible to not find this place beautiful. Casadonna is like the most guapo guy just walked into the party, and perhaps it’s okay that he’s just between jobs.