Italian Elegance at Tullio

Dining at Tullio is as much about the experience as it is about the food.

Of all the dining categories in Coral Gables, none is more competitive — not to mention plentiful — than Italian. There are more Italian fine dining establishments in the city, by far, than any other — places like Zucca, Fontana, Luca Osteria, Portosole, Caffe Abbracci, and Fiola, just to name a few. Why, then, would we want another?

The answer is Tullio, the new restaurant adjacent to Fleming’s on Andalusia, just in from Ponce de Leon. The brainchild of Lucio Zanon and his son Sebastiano — who previously launched Portosole — Tullio is a refreshing twist on Italian cuisine, with a northern sensibility, a focus on seafood, and some very inventive dishes.

Lucio Zanon, the welcoming host, is there to ensure a perfect dining experience.

More than that, Tullio is dining as theater, or at least as “experiential hospitality.” The level of service is cinematic, with Lucio presiding over everything with an effervescent presence. Many of the dishes are prepared at your table on a rolling sideboard, such as filleting a Dover sole, or tossing hot pasta in a wheel of pecorino cheese.

Lucio Zanon, Founder of Tullio

Lucio, always the warm and welcoming host, will be the first to tell you that Tullio is named after his father, and that the restaurant specializes in Italian seafood partly in deference to this “jeweler of seafood” in the Rialto fish market in Venice. He was, naturally, the first to greet the fishing boats coming in with their catch at dawn.

Tullio’s fish is exceptionally fresh, the branzino flown in from the coastal waters of Italy, the shrimp from the coastal waters of Argentina, and the lobster from the coastal waters of Maine. Among the results is a lovely homemade paccheri pasta with chunks of Maine lobster and a creamy lobster sauce, richly flavorful. Other fish/pasta combinations include a classic linguine with fresh clams and a more adventuresome black tagliolini with cuttlefish, peas, and bottarga (cured fish roe).

Tullio does not stop there, however, and the intention is not just to offer classics (like a superb burrata salad and among the best frito misto we have ever tried) but to stretch the taste palate.  “We are trying to do things a little differently, to make it interesting,” says Lucio.

  • Tullio Restaurant

One direction is with seafood, serving a shrimp carpaccio (crudo of the day) and a shrimp scampo, a single large prawn with head and arms intact and a body of shrimp ceviche. Another stretch is their pan-seared octopus served on a bed of chickpea puree stained black with octopus ink, the salty chew of tentacles balanced by the smoky flavor of the puree.

On the pasta front, you can likewise stick with a safe comfort dish like spaghetti with pecorino cheese, pepper, and black truffle; or beef ravioli with mushroom sauce; or you can venture to taste their fresh tagliolini pasta with mascarpone cheese and Oscietra caviar. Or better yet, you can try their spaghetti with pistachio pesto and Sicilian red shrimp crudo. Both take the Italian dining experience to new places, and both take advantage of their pasta, which is made fresh daily.

Another fresh, “just made” specialty of the house is the gelato, produced in what Lucio calls the “Ferrari” of gelato machines. It is incredibly creamy, and comes straight to the table from the machine, a different flavor every day (vanilla, pistachio, or hazelnut). Their other dessert is a panna cotta made from white chocolate with a passion fruit glaze. Neither is to be missed.

The ambiance, meanwhile, could not be more pleasant. The space has an enormously high, 18-foot ceiling, with tall arched windows and hanging lamps. The music is subdued rather than being overpowering, and the lighting is muted to a warm glow. Everything about Tullio speaks understated elegance, from its service to its interior — a perfect fit for old-school Coral Gables.


Tullio

160 Andalusia Ave.
305.926.4208
tulliomiami.com