Ralph Pagano is not exactly a wallflower. The chef, who can be heard regularly on the Paul and Young Ron Show on Big 105.9, has been on multiple television cooking shows, is an outspoken lover of the “ponies”, and shows no shame in his love for a good mojito and a good time.
So when walking into Alba, his new endeavor at Sole on the Ocean resort in Sunny Isles Beach, I wasn’t shocked at all to see an extra-large coffee table book of The Godfather serving as centerpiece at the chef’s table, which (also unsurprising) was graced by a picture of Sophia Loren, Italy’s most famous creation after the Sistine Chapel and pizza.
That’s Pagano creating his own world, like with the framed playing cards from casinos around the globe — one card representing each country he’s been to.
“I’m not finished here.” the chef/owner tells me. “I’m putting up some of my favorite sayings, like the one the Vatican said about not condoning cloning except in Sophia Loren’s case, they may make an exception.”
(Note: Google “Sophia Loren” and “The Vatican” and, indeed, you’ll find that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State did say, “The church is opposed to cloning, but an exception might be made in the case of Sophia Loren.”).
In fact, everything about Alba reflect’s Pagano’s spirit and Italian-American roots from the music (a tuneful diet of Sinatra, Martin, and Four Seasons) to the menu, which is a tribute to old-school cuisine like I grew up with in Brooklyn, mixed in with some fusion fare and plenty of seafood.
We went in the evening, but I would go back for a late lunch, if only to sit outside on the oversized terrace directly facing the nearly-pristine stretch of waterfront on the northernmost part of Miami-Dade’s shoreline.
Candles and oversized dark wood tables give the room mood, as Pagano works the tables filled with Russian flight attendants, a group of young guys out to fortify before heading out for a night of clubbing, and a family celebrating with a holiday meal. The back room is filled with a birthday party group.
It’s clear that this restaurant will serve as an expatriate hangout for many northeast transplants and snowbirds in Aventura and Sunny Isles, hungry for home-style cooking, and Pagano’s sassy hospitality.
No home-cooked Italian meal exists without roasted peppers ($5).
Source: Miami NewTimes