Tradition is the Name of the Game at Bugatti Bistro
Nothing attests to the quality of a restaurant more than longevity. In Coral Gables, where new venues come and go as they try to win the hearts of diners, it takes persistence and excellence to survive and flourish. Bugatti Bistro is such a place.
Bugatti was born in the Gables some 35 years ago as a storefront that made fresh pasta. After a few years, the owners decided to stop supplying and start serving. Now, three decades later, Bugatti is still doing just that: serving traditional Italian food with a dedication to consistent quality and classic recipes. It is a formula that has captured a loyal clientele.
“The people who come here really like to eat regular Italian food,” says Carlos Amasifuen, the owner/manager who took the helm during the pandemic after the original owners retired. “Nothing fancy, nothing added, no innovation of this and that. You want a traditional spaghetti Bolognese, you come here. We always do the very old recipes.”
With that in mind, we sampled two carpaccios from the anti- pasti section of the menu – the “di salmone” and the “de manzo,” the salmon and beef versions of this classic thin-sliced dish with arugula and parmesan cheese. Both were so delicate and light you inhaled them rather than ate them. For a kicker, we added the meatballs with feta cheese, swimming in a rich tomato sauce. Grandma couldn’t have done them better.
For a crunchy contrast to the pliant carpaccio, we tried the Bianca salad, comprising Belgian endives, fennel, arugula, and a lemon dressing. A tad tart for my taste buds, it quickly took a back seat to the vichyssoise soup.
For those unfamiliar with this rare, chilled soup, a trip to Bugatti for a bowl of vichyssoise is alone worth a visit. It is among the most sophisticated dishes to come from the European palate, with a flavor profile that combines puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock, enhanced by the subtle licorice-like flavor of fennel. Because it is so delicate – the cream must be utterly fresh – Bugatti makes theirs daily. Absolutely exquisite – even if it is, ahem, a recipe of French origin.
Back to basic Italian, we sampled the spaghetti al cartoccio. It arrived wrapped in the parchment paper used to bake the pasta with baby clams and chopped fresh tomatoes, in a garlicky white wine sauce. Simple, yet so savory that not a morsel was left behind. Equally marvelous in the pasta category was the ravioli al funghi, mushroom-filled and coated in a light cream sauce with diced ham and mushrooms. Again, not a scrap survived.
Among the Piatti Principali, we tried two dishes that showcased the talents of chef David Acosta: the merluzzo al lenticchie, a roasted filet of north Atlantic cod on a bed of lentils with pancetta, bathed in crème fraiche; and the scaloppini de pollo alla saltimbocca, thin strips of chicken breast and prosciutto, flavored by sage and a Marsala wine reduction, served with saffron risotto. The first dish made me believe I could learn to love lentils (I am not a big fan) while the second was a showstopper I will order on my next visit.
The ambiance of Bugatti is as traditional and comfortable as its menu. You sit either in a central booth or along the walls, each table affording a couch for the ladies. The side tables are defined by paneled columns, so all have a feeling of separation. The walls are a Tuscan yellow with sconces and drop lighting that exude a warm glow. It is a quiet, calm setting, far from the noise-plagued norm of most restaurants today. It has a retro look, something from the ‘80s that is now back in fashion. Reflecting Bugatti’s aura of permanence and tradition is the staff, which has been there for decades. The chef has been in the kitchen for 31 years, the sous chef 25 years, the line cook 22 years, and so forth. “Most of the guys have been here forever because it is a very nice place to work,” says Amasifuen, who started as a Bugatti waiter 25 years ago. “It’s a unique operation.”
2504 Ponce De Leon Blvd.