Coral Gables’ newest Italian restaurant, zucca, brings spice to Hotel St. Michel

CharcuterieHidden on a central but quiet side street in Coral Gables, you can find Hotel St. Michel, a small, European-style boutique inn dating to the 1920s. Blanketed in ivy-colored décor, much has stayed the same inside the vintage hotel, from its antique brass elevator to its 28 uniquely designed rooms.

But in March, Hotel St. Michel added the swanky Zucca to its bottom floor. The modern Italian restaurant, equipped with a full-service bar, creates a bustling atmosphere in the hotel, especially on the weekends, when it is difficult to find a table without a reservation.   

Created by Da Silva Hospitality Group, a Venezuelan-based firm responsible for more than 30 restaurants and hotels in South America, Zucca brings Latin American flavor to the traditional Italian restaurant.

Ricotta e Mela Pancake_2For Keiny Da Silva, vice president of Da Silva Hospitality Group, Zucca takes on a deeper meaning than just a new restaurant. Her family traces to Sicily, which is something she and husband, Erasmo, want to convey with Zucca, which is their first establishment in the United States and expands the Da Silva name beyond Venezuela.

“It seems like we’ve been in the restaurant business forever,” Da Silva says. “We’re so established in Venezuela, so we decided to try to move into the U.S. and understand the market.”

Nonna's MuleIn 2014, the Da Silvas moved to South Florida to study its growing restaurant scene. “There’s this phenomenon where restaurants open and close very quickly,” she says. “But it takes a long time for a restaurant to be able to walk by itself. That’s why we decided to move to Miami, understand the market here, and then slowly launch our concept.”

To create Zucca, the Da Silvas and Hotel St. Michel renovated the ground floor, creating two distinct spaces on both sides of the inn. On the left is a large cocktail bar with a glass-enclosed, 1,000-bottle wine cellar. On the right, the restaurant serves an eclectic menu of Italian classics—ravioli, tagliatelle, Milanese dishes and Mediterranean sea bass, among others.

“There aren’t many places in Coral Gables for authentic Italian cuisine,” Da Silva says. “We found this niche and moved forward.”

The menu highlights comfort and affordability while the atmosphere is stylish. Within a dimly lit space, dozens of waiters in white linens dash through the restaurant’s corridors, sometimes serving hundreds of customers a night.

AranciniMeals often begin with charcuterie—meats and cheeses sourced from various regions in Italy, such as Tuscany and Lombardy. Other shareable starters include carpaccio or the arancini di riso con ragú bolognese, crispy risotto balls stuffed with meat sauce and mozzarella.

Standout pasta dishes include trofie al pesto genovese, which is pasta sautéed in a traditional pesto sauce and topped with pine nuts; ravioli di zucca burro e salvia, a homemade ravioli dish stuffed with pumpkin and sautéed with light butter sauce and sage; and tagliatelle ai funghi, tagliatelle pasta sautéed with mushrooms and topped with shaved black truffle and extra virgin olive oil.

Meat and seafood plates include baked sea bass, dry-aged T-bone steak and veal chop Milanese.

Vitello TonnatoFor a sweet finish, there are several traditional Italian desserts, such as tiramisu or tortino di carote, a carrot cake with Grand Marnier zabaglione sauce.

“The simplicity of Italian cuisine is key,” Da Silva says. “But it’s more than that. We’ve created a special ambience here too. It’s about bringing something new and different to the area.”