As the name implies, La Mela Italian Fusion Restaurant in Palmetto Bay offers a blend of traditional Italian dishes fused with global influences from cultures such as Latin America and Asia. Co-owner Federico Padovan revealed that La Mela in Italian means apple, as in forbidden fruit, and each dish on the extensive menu is as tempting as the next one.
“My family has always had a knack for the culinary arts and our chef, Alberto Cabanas, is a stellar chef,” said Padovan. “He’s been a chef in South Florida for over 20 years and has a unique take on food. The variation of dishes on the menu creates a great offering. There’s something that will tempt and please everyone.”
The menu offers traditional Italian favorites such as lasagna and homemade ravioli stuffed with shrimp, crab, salmon or lobster. From the wood oven come delicious breads, paninis and pizzas. Padovan says the grilled lamb with apricot balsamic glaze and the Sea Bass al Gran Marnier are customer favorites, and the desserts are all homemade.
“And with a fine meal, there must be fine wine,” said Padovan, a Certified Specialist of Wine.
La Mela has an extensive wine list and Padovan recently was in Italy visiting numerous vineyards, meeting local producers and discovering new Italian wines that will be added to the restaurant’s menu. Each month, La Mela features a white and a red wine, and offers them at a special price of $20.10.
Monday through Friday at La Mela, early bird specials are offered featuring two-for-one entrées from 5 to 7 p.m. Lunch specials for $8.95 are available from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Our goal is to offer a fine dining experience without the fine dining price,” said Padovan.
Padovan worked with his mother, La Mela co-owner Michele Estevez, and brother Oscar, from California, to renovate the space with warm, neutral colors and simple finishes. He describes the serene décor as “spa like.”
“My two sons worked long hours to create the most simple and comfortable ambiance,” said Estevez. “It has been very rewarding to hear customers say they feel relaxed and at home at La Mela.”
Customers enjoy dining at the casual, elegant bar. Others book a private reception or party in the VIP room. Some diners make a reservation at the Chef’s Table. Only one Chef’s Table experience is offered each night, so book early.
“The chef interacts with the guests at the Chef’s Table and prepare dishes to suit their tastes,” said Padovan. “He’ll also recommend the right wines that will compliment the meal. It’s quite an experience.
“It you appreciate nice ambiance, good food and good wine, you’ll enjoy yourself at La Mela. Our goal is to become a special part of this community.”
La Mela, 14151 S. Dixie Hwy., is open Sunday through Friday for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturday for dinner from 5-10 p.m. For reservations and more information, call 786-206-1108.