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Fratelli La Bufala: Authentic Italian Food on South Beach

May 18, 2009 By Doug in Miami: Food & Restaurant News  | 9 Comments


My first night back in South Beach and I was out on a double date: me and two fun, beautiful girls! Dinner would have to be something unique yet casual, tasty, light, and vegetarian-friendly, since one of them wasn’t a carnivore.  We’d first intended to spend our evening at Tap Tap, a local Haitian restaurant packed with personality and Caribbean flair.  However, 40 minutes into our wait—and that was just for the drinks—we realized the gods had other plans for us that night, so we set off on Fifth Street, in search of a more inviting setting for our soirée.  We promptly found it in Fratelli La Bufala (437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139, 305-532-0700).



You might assume that anything with the word “pizzeria” in the sign has to be fairly bargain-conscious, yet the ambience was very distinct from your neighborhood Shakey’s.  In keeping with South Beach’s attention to aesthetics, the restaurant offered candlelit patio seating beneath the palm trees, in addition to its upscale interior.  Located at the corner of Fifth and Washington, Fratelli La Bufala is mere steps from the action on Ocean Drive, and close enough to the ocean that you can feel the fresh breezes wafting by you as you enjoy the night.  Despite its proximity to the heart of the Beach, it maintained a pleasant, low-key atmosphere, which was conducive to conversation.



I must admit my two weeks in Italy in 1994 didn’t prepare me for the menu.  The names of the dishes were in Italian, and unfortunately, some of the English descriptions also had old country culinary terminology I wasn’t quite familiar with, like paccheri, scamorza, and chiodini, which sounded almost like insults you might hurl at someone while flicking your teeth with your thumb.  Also confounding the matter was the word “bufala” itself.  I assumed it to be buffalo, but later learned it refers primarily to a mozarella cheese prepared from the cow buffalo’s milk.  Lest you think you’re going to some kind of Italian steakhouse, it’s an important thing to know up front.  The restaurant’s name, Fratelli La Bufala, basically translates as “Buffalo Brothers.”  So, score one for restaurant authenticity, zero for my culinary expertise in Italian food that doesn’t come by way of Brooklyn. 

Fortunately, our patient waiter Ivano was on hand to explain things for us.  In the end, I had to basically describe what I wanted and he’d tell me what to order.


Despite a little vague initial concern that we might have wandered into a tourist trap, we were really impressed with the quality of the food and drink.  If it was a tourist trap, it was an unusually tasty one.

First, the wine was served in half-caraffes, small decanters which gave you a little more than your typical glass.  Since I drink only red wine, Ivano suggested their rosso cassa (house red) for $7, while the girls enjoyed the Pinot Grigio, which was a little pricier at $10 per glass.  The quality of the wine was excellent, and it complimented our dinner nicely.

We began our meal with an order of bruschetta ($7), which was fresh and tangy.  The one thing I remembered about my two week Italian vacation back in ‘94 was that we Americans have it all wrong when we prounounce it brushetta.  You’ll really impress the waiter and your date(s) if you pronounce it the proper Italian way, BrusKAYtah.  Unfortunately, I mispronounced everything else, so I wasn’t exactly batting a thousand.

I later learned that the tomatoes, pastas, meats and cheeses used at Fratelli La Bufala are shipped fresh from Italy to their locations throughout the world, which now number at about 200.  This buffalo brotherhood has managed to spread faster in their four-year history than England at its most imperial.


Girl One ordered the Margherita pizza ($15), an Italian staple, and requested it with french fries and mushrooms on top.  The pizza is prepared in the traditional Italian style in an unusually low-ceilinged brick oven.  The crust is very doughy, due in part to the fact that in addition to the typical ingredients of yeast, flour, and olive oil, ice is also used to keep the cooking temperature low, which enhances the flavor.  Then, once in the oven, it’s cooked for only about 40 seconds.  Unlike American pizza, Italian pizzas, although fairly large, are intended for single servings.  Margheritas are prepared simply, with marinara on the dough, bufala mozarella and basil.  The french fries were her idea! Perhaps they were intended as a political statement.


My other friend opted for the entree size of the Caprese salad, which is made with bufala mozarella, basil, lettuce, and extra virgin olive oil.  It was surprisingly pricey at $17, but considering that they’re flying the ingredients in direct from the old country, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.


I was in the mood for some pasta and marinara sauce.  I asked Ivano what he recommended, and he suggested the Scarpariello, which is a pasta typical of the region in Southern Italy where the Bufala brothers are from.  It’s large, wide-tubed, and is served with a zesty marinara/mozarella sauce, which was out-of-this-world delicious.  At $14, it was on the higher side of reasonable, but again, those fresh ingredients so refreshingly free of our waist-expanding American preservatives make the extra expense worthwhile.



The service was good by South Beach standards, though it did take us three requests to get the bread.  Ivano was pleasant and accommodating, and we were seated immediately (on a Wednesday evening at around 8:45 pm) without having to wait.


Having been away from the Beach for a while, I still feel a little sticker shock when the bill comes at a restaurant that offers anything other than counter service.  However, in retrospect, considering the value of the food, and the 7 glasses of wine we had, it wasn’t such a horrible expense.  With the 17% pre-included service, the total for our dinner for three came to $137.45.  Knowing now what I do about the restaurant’s enthusiasm for perfection, I would be happy to come back.  I would say that if you’re hankering for a tapas kind of outing, it would probably stretch your evening budget a bit.  However, if you’re looking for a casually-upscale, romantic place to take a date, Fratelli La Bufala fits the bill quite well.  Just make sure you bring along your Italian-English dictionary in case Ivano has the night off!


Related Categories: Dining Guide Miami: Food & Restaurant News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

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9 Comments on

"Fratelli La Bufala: Authentic Italian Food on South Beach"

Sungal says:

Hey Doug!

Am I allowed to say I was dining companion #2? I just want to clarify that I was not the one who had the pizza with french fries. One thing I learned is that place uses Buffalo meat for it’s dishes.
I can’t believe that my salad was $17! That was the most expensive Caprese salad ever. Even the one at the Delano is $16 and they charge a ton for everything!

I will definately go back..everything was excellent, and your pasta and sauce were amazing! And the bread and olive oil were worth the wait.

Posted on 05/18/2009 at 6:59 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Shakey’s. So L.A.

I’ve been there before and I like it, although it is pricey.

So was the other girl?

Posted on 05/18/2009 at 7:56 PM

Doug says:

Hi Sungal, no, you’re more than welcome to volunteer that you were one of my mystery dates! I just wanted to respect your privacy.  I guess I should have discussed that with you and girl X (Jess) over dinner. ha ha

Yeah, we should verify that the Caprese salad entree is actually $17.  If not and we were overcharged, that would change my impressions a little…

Posted on 05/18/2009 at 9:53 PM

Doug says:

Hi Carlos, yeah, Shakey’s is very LA!  I still remember my old American Graffiti LP that had Wolfman Jack crank calling a kid from Shakey’s Pizza, going into Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.”  There was still one on Santa Monica Blvd in WeHo last I checked.

Posted on 05/18/2009 at 10:00 PM

mcemc says:

This is a dicgrace to see how the restaurant industry is ripping off folks that enjoy dining out. First of all, they overcharged, slow service and the food is not all that. A tip for you folks that enjoy or try to be fit in the dining out world :” FOOD CAN BE POISONOUS AFTER HEAT AND RE-HEAT”.

Posted on 05/19/2009 at 9:04 AM

Doug says:

Hi mcemc, welcome! Thanks for your comment.  Were you referring specifically to Fratelli La Bufala, or were you talking about the restaurant industry in general?

Posted on 05/19/2009 at 9:53 AM

mcemc says:

Hi Doug, thanks for your reply.
It would be unfair if, I mention “la Fratelli” because i’ve never been there.So, no offense and don’t take it personnally because, it is there.

Posted on 05/20/2009 at 12:29 AM

Dan Lorenzo says:

My wife and I LOVE FLB!! It is SO hard to find authentic Italian food when we leave our NJ/NY area on our U.S. travels. FLB is the REAL deal. We got married in Rome Italy. We love to travel and FLB is a MUST when we’re in SoBe.

Posted on 12/07/2010 at 1:27 PM

Doug says:

Thanks, Dan.  The good thing is that you don’t have to enjoy Italian at the expense of your waistline! These dishes were authentic, but not your typical Italian calorie orgy.

Posted on 12/07/2010 at 2:15 PM

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