When it comes to great food, there are few restaurants that can match the Italian dishes served at Romanza.
From the outside, Romanza doesn’t immediately evoke the feeling of fine dining, but once the meal comes, it quickly wins you over.
“We have a relentless focus on our food,” owner/chef Fernando Cortez told me.
Despite rising costs, we refuse to compromise or cut corners; you get the same quality and portion size that we’ve always served. We’d love to update the décor, but we’d rather deliver great food at value prices.”
Fair enough. Since August 2009, Cortez and his wife Anna Maria have built a fan base of foodies and families.
“We have a very loyal crowd and we cater to their every need,” he said. “If they want something off menu, all they have to do is ask and we’ll make it.”
The Cortez children also help out at the restaurant.
“We chose this location because we live nearby and the kids didn’t want us to move anywhere else.”
You’ll see Debbie, Maximilian and sometimes Claudia working right alongside the dedicated staff. Many have been with Cortez through several restaurant locations. “Rafael Rosario is my longtime co-chef,” he said. “He cooks amazing food.”
Romanza runs lean for serving so many great meals. There are two cooks, two dishwashers, two waiters and two busboys. “Wherever we are light or need help, my wife jumps in,” Cortez said.
If you think the Romanza name is familiar, you are correct.
Cortez had two prior versions of his restaurant in Pinecrest, and one before that in Aventura. In both cases, he sold them and opened a new restaurant. “I like to take unsuccessful restaurant locations and turn them around,” he said.
Cortez has restaurant success in his blood. “I was born in Bolivia and came to the U.S. in 1973,” he said. “Within two months of arriving, I started working at an Italian restaurant in Clifton, NJ. The owner took me under his wing and I credit him with teaching me how to cook Italian.”
In 1990, Cortez and a close friend, Giuseppe Zuozo, opened the successful Anacapri restaurant in Pinecrest. “We were very close friends and still talk today, but in 1997 it was best for me to leave and take my next career steps.”
Romanza was Cortez’s next venture and current love. Little has changed on the menu in years because “it just works.” Everyone in the family, including kids, will find something they enjoy eating. Cortez says that 75 percent of the items on the menu sell consistently, with chicken and eggplant dishes being diner favorites. Aside from the specials, no entree exceeds $20.
Romanza, attached to the Quality Inn at 14501 S. Dixie Hwy., is closed on Monday.
Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m. Special events and private functions may be scheduled and lunch is available on an as-needed basis. Friday and Saturday are usually quite busy and reservations are recommended. For more information, call 305-278-9027.
COMEDY INN AT THE QUALITY IN
Where’s the best comedy club in South Florida? The Grove? Brickell? Hollywood? Nah, it’s in Palmetto Bay! No, I wouldn’t kid you. Not only is there a comedy club in Palmetto Bay, it’s at the Quality Inn and it’s incredibly good.
Mike Levine, whose family has owned the hotel since 1972, started The Comedy Inn in 2010 as a pet project. Back then it was cobbled together. Today, it’s a well crafted venue that comedians love, and that makes for great comedy.
“When you focus on taking care of the comics, they take care of you and the audience,” said Levine.
Indeed they do. Levine hires and flies in nationally known acts for each show.
“We stream every show live and we have five cameras capturing each performance,” said Levine. “This allows the comics to hone their material and see themselves from the audience perspective. We also get a worldwide audience of thousands on our website.”
Much of the success in comedy is in creating intimacy and making people feel like they are in on the joke. The Comedy Inn nails both criteria.
The 70-seat room is comfortably organized out and from the moment Levine greets guests at the door, there is a family atmosphere. The comedians never hide while waiting their turn in the spotlight. They are accessible on and off the stage, making guests feel that they are part of the club.
Unlike most comedy clubs, there is not a two-drink minimum at The Comedy Inn and $25 per person gets you a great night of “dry” comedy.
For $35, add two premium liquor drinks, and for $45 they’ll pour for you all night long.
“Nothing makes me happier than having the best show around in the part of Miami we call home,” said Levine.
So bring some friends and come to the place real comedy lovers rave about — The Comedy Inn, at 14501 S. Dixie Hwy. Shows change almost monthly and the schedule is at www.comedyinn.com/.
REAL ESTATE UPDATE
Selling and buying real estate in the area takes a certain level of finesse to ensure that you are getting the best deal. If you have any real estate questions, I’m the local expert and I’m ready to help.