February Talk of the Town

Nino’s Way

In an emotional ceremony last month, the City of Coral Gables designated the 300 block of Aragon Avenue as Nino Pernetti Way, honoring the man who owned and operated Caffe Abbracci for more than 30 years. Pernetti passed away last year from COVID complications.

Nearly 100 people attended the event, including more than two dozen civic and community leaders, many of whom were regular customers at what became power lunch central in the Gables and beyond. As the consummate host of Abbracci, Pernetti welcomed guests who ranged from former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to movie stars like Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Antonio Banderas – the list goes on. His favorites were his local regulars, of course.

Daughters Tatiana and Katerina at the ceremony designating Nino Pernetti Way

“Nino was certainly the ultimate host,” said Mayor Vince Lago at the unveiling of the sign. “You can see by the turnout today not only how popular Nino was, but how much he was loved.” As former Mayor Raul Valdés-Fauli remarked afterwards, “If I had a country, I would name him ambassador to the whole world. He was a wonderful, wonderful person, and he is sorely missed.” Nino’s daughters Tatiana and Katerina, who were in attendance, plan to continue operating the restaurant.

Football Funding Fever

How important is the Hurricanes football team to the University of Miami? It’s worth at least a $100 million investment. UM recently filed plans for a $100 million football operations center on what is now a campus parking lot on Dickinson Drive. The new center will comprise 150,000-square-feet and provide space for offices, classrooms, and athletic facilities for the training, recovery, nutrition, academics, and recruiting of players. A ground-floor dining hall of 15,000-square-feet is also planned for players.

February Talk of the Town

The building was designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica. “The building will support student athletes and the university’s goal of recruiting the best talent in the nation,” UM VP of Facilities Jessica Brumley said in the letter of intent. UM is hoping to rebuild its once-vaunted football program after closing out this season with a losing record.

The Next Tiger Woods?

Billed as the contest for the world’s best young golfers, the annual four-day Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship at the Biltmore Hotel did not disappoint. Jay Brooks of Boca Raton beat No. 2 Marco Florioli of Italy for the boys’ trophy, while Anna Davis of Spring Valley, CA, beat No. 2 Savannah de Bock of Belgium for the girls’ title. Brooks finished with a comeback 3-under-par 68 to win the contest, which is one of the athletic, artistic, and cultural events that make up the Junior Orange Bowl International Youth Festival.

February Talk of the Town
Jay Brooks and Anna Davis Are Flanked by (on the Left) Former Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, Biltmore Executive Vp Tom Prescott, City Commissioner Kirk Menendez, and (on the Right) Biltmore Managing Director Matthias Kammerer, Biltmore Golf Director Lara Pauloff, and Biltmore President Gene Prescott.

“It is always exciting to see these talented players get their first title at the Biltmore and then see their professional golf careers take off from here,” said Tom Prescott, executive vice president at the Biltmore. And just for the record, Tiger Woods did win the championship as a young golfer back in 1991.

Culture Clutch

More than 220 people attended the annual fundraiser for the Coral Gables Museum last month, raising over $125,000 in funds to support the museum’s new exhibitions and programming. Under the new leadership of Executive Director Elvis Fuentes, the museum has aggressively expanded its mission to present the work of groundbreaking artists. At the gala, the museum also honored two couples, Raul and Nino Rodriguez and Alirio and Dorys Torealba, with Civic Arts Awards for their contributions to the museum and community culture.

The Rewards of Recycling

For the kids who use it, recycling has its rewards: The top 10 recyclers of cans and plastic bottles in the new Reverse Vending Machine at the War Memorial Youth Center will get free movie tickets and popcorn at the Coral Gables Art Cinema. The machine was installed last November, designed to encourage kids to recycle disposable drink containers. In its first month, some 1,500 containers were deposited. “This was brought to us by three UM students who started this as one of their business courses projects. It became a business after they graduated,” says Solanch Lopez, co-executive director of the Keep Coral Gables Beautiful program. “They wanted to partner with a municipality [for a beta test], so they came to us. We thought it was a great idea.”

February Talk of the Town

In addition to tickets and popcorn, the machine provides other rewards as well. “Kids are searching all over the Youth Center to collect bottles to put into the machine, just to hear them crunch,” says Lopez. And then there are the aesthetic benefits. “Plastic bottles are no longer left behind [at the Youth Center], providing for a cleaner, more inviting playground,” said Mayor Vince Lago, who has been leading an aggressive campaign to keep the city’s streets clean and well-manicured.

The Real Housewife of Coral Gables

In the TV celebrity category, we note that one of “The Real Housewives of Miami” has purchased a new home in Coral Gables. Board-certified anesthesiologist Dr. Nicole Martin and her fiancé, attorney Anthony M. Lopez, purchased a 10,860-square-foot waterfront home in the Old Cutler Bay neighborhood. The couple plans a $10 million renovation for the seven-bed, nine-bath home that sold for $21.5 million, including a seaplane dock. And you thought that reality TV stars weren’t flamboyant!