Soya e Pomodoro: Downtown Miami Hangout Serves Up Delicious Italian Fare

“Hole in the wall” would be the best way to describe Soya e Pomodoro. From the street it looks like an unlikely spot for a restaurant. It’s squeezed into an alcove in a former bank building between watch and jewelry stores in downtown Miami. It’s a space that looks like it was abandoned for years until someone moved in chairs, tables and plants.

The decor is second-hand chic. Mismatched chairs surround tables of different heights and sizes. A well-worn couch shares a low wooden coffee table with a couple of comfortable chairs. Bookshelves filled with old books in several languages create a wall. If you peek behind you’ll see the stunning architecture of the former bank in a space that’s used for parties and live performances.

On a street where many of the signs are in Spanish it’s strange to be greeted with a “buon giorno.”But once you step through the wrought iron gates into the eclectic dining room it feels as if you have entered a café on a side street in Rome.

Soya e Pomodoro’s motto is “simple food made with love.” It’s clear the chef and staff take great pride in making their food with love. When I asked the server if one of the pasta sauces was homemade he said, “of course it’s homemade, everything here is homemade! We’re Italian, that’s how we cook!”

For a small space it has a big menu. There are a variety of salads, paninis and pastas, with several chicken, steak and fish options for the main course. Everything is made with the freshest ingredients, which comes through in the food’s fresh taste.

One of the dishes Soya e Pomodoro prides itself on is its homemade gnocchi. It’s some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. The gnocchi are small, light pillows that are cooked perfectly and bursting with flavor. The sauce is delicious, a slightly creamy tomato sauce with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Meat lovers will enjoy the lasagna, which tastes like a recipe that was passed down through generations. It’s oozing with cheese and well-seasoned meat.

For dessert, the tiramisu is not to miss. It has a great espresso taste and just the right amount of mascarpone cheese so it’s not overly sweet or creamy. A generous sprinkling of cocoa powder on top will satisfy any chocolate craving.

To complete the Italian experience, I ordered an espresso. It was slightly more bitter than the espressos I remember drinking in Italy but just as strong. Sipping an espresso while watching people walk by, it’s easy to imagine yourself in Rome.

Soya e Pomodoro is busy during the day and is really hopping at night. Wednesdays through Fridays the restaurant is packed until late in the night with an eclectic mix of people listening to live music. Soya e Pomodoro’s website is still under construction but you can find out about upcoming events on the restaurant’s MySpace page.

Whether you’re looking to be transported to Italy for lunch or for a hip late night hang out spot, Soya e Pomodoro is that hidden gem in downtown Miami.

Soya e Pomodoro is located at 120 NE 1st Street in Miami.