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Miami’s Oldest Neighborhood Is Turning Up the Heat

By Evan S. Benn

04.18.17

From the May/June 2017 issue

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Courtesy of Glass & Vine

The city’s most modern food is emerging from one of its oldest neighborhoods: Coconut Grove.

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For Giorgio Rapicavoli, the chef and Chopped champion behind the year-old restaurant Glass & Vine, Coconut Grove is a refreshing contrast to the glitz of the city.     

“To me, Coconut Grove represents old-school Miami. This small pocket of bayfront parks, marinas, shops, and restaurants just south of downtown Miami, is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. If you grew up in Miami like I did, odds are you spent a lot of time in Coconut Grove. I’m from Westchester, a mostly Hispanic suburb about seven miles west, but I spent my days in the Grove’s parks as a kid, and I went on dates to the movies here as a teen. Then in March 2016, I opened my restaurant, Glass & Vine, in Peacock Park. It seems that no matter how old you are, the Grove is always a part of a Miamian’s life.

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“Many people see Wynwood as the cultural hub of Miami, because of its art galleries, or they think that South Beach is the only place with exciting restaurants. And while the Grove went through a period in the ’90s and into the aughts where it was dominated by chain restaurants, malls, and tourist traps, it has seen a revival in recent years. Independent shops and restaurants are opening. Young families have moved in, and there are art galleries and green spaces and pedestrian-friendly streets. People from all over the city are realizing that the Grove is cool again. Yet it still has authenticity, which can be lacking in other corners of Miami.

“Plus, some of the best food in Miami right now is coming out of the restaurants here, from Ariete, a Cuban-influenced spot, to Harry’s Pizzeria. I’m at Glass & Vine most nights, but even when I’m not, you’ll likely find me eating or shopping nearby or hanging out in Peacock Park.

"I think my favorite part of the neighborhood—the thing that never gets old—is when you turn from Main Highway onto McFarlane Road. You go from seeing small shops and tree-lined streets to this gorgeous view of the Biscayne Bay, the marina, and the surrounding areas. It’s beautiful, especially around sunset. You see all these people walking and biking, and it adds an aura of well-being. I see that and I think, ‘This is why I’m here, right now.’”

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