It’s after 3 p.m. and Chef Gustavo Ribera is busy prepping the evening’s specials when six young women ranging in age from 4 to 20 come bounding into the dining room.
Amidst the familiar aromas of simmering sauce and fresh Italian spices, suddenly warm laughter and loving little squeals also fill the air inside Alaine’s Osteria, Palmetto Bay’s newest restaurant off Old Cutler Road at SW 168th Street.
Ribero stops everything to greet his daughters, one by one, with giant hugs and kisses, creating an atmosphere of loving care and attention that will extend well into the evening for his dinner guests.
“Family is so important, which is why I am so pleased Palmetto Bay has so readily accepted me into their ‘family’ with the warmest welcome you could ever hope for,” Ribera said.
Although, the doors opened just three short months ago, Alaine’s Osteria is an immediate hit.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ribera said. “We’ve been nonstop busy since Day One — and it’s all been word of mouth.”
Guests are spreading the news there’s a new Italian restaurant in town that is truly redefining the term “family-style dining.”
With so few restaurants in Palmetto Bay, Ribera heard this community was hungry for more local dining options.
“But it takes much more than a good location,” he said. “You have to offer excellent, high-quality food to keep people coming back.”
And coming back they are. Ribera estimates 80 percent are repeat customers.
Formerly with Anacapri Restaurant on Miracle Mile, Ribera was ready for a new challenge after 11 years as head chef. He also knew he wanted to work much closer to his home and family in Cutler Bay.
“And then this opportunity just fell from the sky… Well, with a little help from my third daughter, Alaines,” he continued.
Ribera explained how it happened
“One Sunday back in December, we’re on way home from church. Alaines spotted a ‘Restaurant-Closed’ sign off Old Cutler Road and called it out. ‘Look daddy, look at that sign!’ So we took down the number, contacted the owner, and the rest is history.”
Ribera moved into the former Bistro Foly at 7920 SW 168 St. on Jan. 16. He changed the name of the restaurant, the entire concept to contemporary Italian cuisine, and re-opened as Alaine’s Osteria, complete with six diamonds in its logo — one for each of his six daughters.
And now they all come by on a daily basis either to work, in the case of his two oldest daughters who serve as hostesses, or just to drop by to see their daddy after school.
“I adore the fact I get to see my wife and kids for more than just a few minutes every day,” he boasts.
This wasn’t always the case. While working long hours, miles away in downtown Coral Gables, Ribera rarely made it home to South-Dade each night before his entire family was asleep.
“Now, just seven minutes from home, I get to see them multiple times a day. We are all so much happier and closer,” he said. “And we get to celebrate the simplest moments together again.”
Ribera’s wife, Marbella, comes in just before the doors opens at 4 p.m., to serve in her role as the restaurant’s “ambassador of goodwill.”
“She makes her rounds ensuring everyone is comfortable and satisfied,” and in the process, proudly shares their six-diamond story with every table.
Alaine’s Osteria is open for dinner only, freeing up the chef’s daylight hours for shopping and preparation of homemade pastas and fresh sauces each day.
“We’re not high-priced,” he adds, with main-menu entrees starting at $15. “But you are definitely going to leave here having had a high-quality experience.”
Ribera came to the U.S. from Bolivia at age 14. A graduate of Miami Killian High School and Johnson & Wales University, he immediately started a successful career as a hotel restaurateur. He has presented his craft at food and wine festivals from Manhattan to San Francisco and Uruguay. He also made appearances on local TV shows but now prefers to stay off the road and closer to home.
Now in his very own restaurant, Ribera characterizes himself as a “home-style chef” offering a traditional Italian menu of lasagna, ravioli, fettuccini, pollo Marsala, and steak and salmon standards. But he also presents a delectable variety of daily specials such as foie gras, oysters Rockefeller, and jumbo shrimp in a scampi sauce. Guests are invited to check the list of specials by visiting Alaine’s Osteria on Facebook and Instagram.
Asked to look back at what he wanted to be when he was just 9 years old, like Alaines. Ribera didn’t hesitate: “A chef, of course!”
“I remember being in my mother’s kitchen as a child and watching her cook,” he continued. “I absolutely loved her food. It was a miracle of flavors… That alone made me fall in love with cooking.”
Seating in the restaurant’s 35-seat dining room is first-come, first-served. Hours are Sunday, 4-9 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturdays, 4-11 p.m.
Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more and private functions may be scheduled by calling in advance at 305-252-0355. Visit www.alainesosteria.com/ for more information.