Niven Patel’s growing influence on Coral Gables’ dining scene is undeniable. From the woodfired menu at Orno and elevated appetizers at Mamey at THesis Hotel Miami, the James Beard-nominated chef behind four restaurants in the neighborhood is doing the kind of food you expect from buzzier parts of Miami. For his latest restaurant, Erba, Chef Patel is hopping on the vibey Italian trend proliferating the city, and he’s doing it his way.
Most of Erba is familiar: the bold, pink-and-red-hued interior, the dim lighting, the large, sexy bar and the selection of pasta. But before you jump to conclusions about this place, chalking it up to another Italian restaurant where the reservations are impossible and pasta is double-digit priced, remember iconoclastic Patel is steering this ship. He’s reimagined traditional dishes (billing the cuisine as Italy meets Miami), brought herbs and vegetables from his garden and hired top talents to level up every last detail—from the bar program to the fringed banquettes and vintage-inspired ice cream coupes, bestowing an actually cool restaurant in an area of Miami that can feel pretty suburban.
Dinner starts with bread service (perfect rosemary foccacia) and a butter candle, for many the first time seeing the clever TikTok trend in person (it does not disappoint!). Then it’s off to the veggies Chef Patel’s either grown himself or carefully sourced, including the Farm Eggplant with fennel, Calabrian chiles, shallots and rosemary and a delicate Endive Salad with roasted grapes, walnuts, Piave Vecchio and a verjus vinaigrette. The Tomato Tonnato is one of the many classics he’s reworked, subbing in smoked grouper for tuna alongside avocado, shallots and a Barolo vinaigrette. The small, poppable Mozzarella Arancini with prosciutto di San Daniele and roasted tomato were also enjoyed from the vegetable section. A Wahoo Crudo with Fine Harvest olive oil, fresno chili and citron vinaigrette followed with Foie Gras atop an herb salad and crostini.
Main dishes aren’t usually on our radar at an Italian restaurant (saving room for pasta, obviously), but our server insisted on the Denver Steak, and we’re glad he did. Perfectly cooked, the steak arrived sliced with turnips and finished off tableside with bone marrow salsa verde. It all made for a really juicy and tender piece of meat.
After all that, surprisingly, there was still room for pasta. From lightest to heartiest: the Rotolo, like fall on a plate with calabaza, spinach, ricotta, age pesto and hazelnuts; Mafaldine, Chef Patel’s take on a linguine alle Vongole prepared Florida-style with Bahamian conch, vermentino, lemon and parsley; Campanelle in a rich Niman Ranch lamb ragu, marsala and pecorino Toscano; and the pillowy Angolotti stuffed with wagyu beef cheeks, caramelized onion and robiola bosina.
Somehow, dessert was next and we had to rally. But it didn’t take much convincing after the miniature Cannolis (Patel put his stamp on these, too, switching out the heavy fried dough for a light waffle) and Tiramisu landed on the table. The latter was really one of the best renditions of the Italian dessert we’ve ever had.
Skipping the carbs these days? Come for the drinks! Erba’s sexy bar is a destination unto itself, with a great program designed by Scott Beattie—known for curating bar programs at Barn Diva and Goose & Gander, the menu serves several types of negronis, spritzes and a variety of craft cocktails, some with the ‘Erba’ prefix as a signature.