Surviving nearly two decades in the South Beach restaurant world is a milestone, and transforming traditionally cheesy, meaty Italian classics into equally hearty vegan dishes is no small feat either.
At the graceful Escopazzo, an anomaly on its stretch of Washington Avenue, chef Giancarla Bodoni regularly revamps an all-organic menu, featuring robust dishes in the winter and lighter ones in the spring. Her clever raw and vegan creations are available à la carte or as part of a tasting menu ($60 for three courses; $80 for five courses).
When we dined recently, we started with beet "ravioli" dressed lightly with a truffle oil, lemon juice and olive oil emulsion ($19). The thinly sliced golden beets, sandwiching a sleek cashew spread, dissuaded any misguided notions we had about vegan food tasting like cardboard.
Next, we twirled our fork around al dente spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce ($20). The thick, rich sauce and delicate vegetable "meatballs" created a deeply satisfying dish. Equally fine were zucchini ribbons blanketed with sundried-tomato-and-walnut pesto. Earthy mushrooms marinated in lemon and olive oil balanced the piquant sauce ($19).
Date night calls for a table for two, or reserve the round table by the window for a night of vegging out with friends.