The summer of 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, Miami enjoyed a different type of heat, a sizzling culinary uprising. Local restaurants found their rhythm, and all eyes fixed on South Florida. Not long after opening in June, Boia De, by (2020 Best Chef: South, James Beard Award Semifinalists) chefs Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer, found unwavering and loving support from our community. “Luci was born in Miami, so she already had a family and friend network here, rather than starting from zero in a new city. So immediately, we were comfortable moving and living here. As for making the decision as a business owner and having the concept of Boia De somewhere in our heads, we saw a lot of value coming here. After living in the two largest cities in America, Miami felt much more manageable. It also felt like we could make a larger splash with our tiny place, ” recalls Meyer.
Hidden within an unassuming strip mall in Little Haiti, next to a laundromat and supermarket, Boia De’s logo —a large pink neon exclamation point— signals you have arrived at the correct spot. Inside, there’s enough seating for about a dozen diners, and a bar area for ten guests at most. The restaurant is small, but grand on character and style. Forest green paint and custom-designed wallpaper border the intimate dining room, and natural wood textures anchor the scattered whimsical touches. Sure, it’s a relatively new space, but it feels as if it has always been there —in that familiar warm way one feels when arriving at home. When you visit the bathroom, pay close attention to the one-of-a-kind wallpaper—two words: vodka monkeys. You’re welcome.
When all indoor dining paused last spring, Boia De took some time to figure out their next move. Takeout and delivery debuted: options still at play today. By the time they celebrated their first year in business, life had changed, and the newcomer was forced to reinvent their business model again. A new outside dining area emerged and began accommodating diners safely. Impressively, even through all these changes, it’s important to note that the food continued to find a way to impress. And that, my friends, is not an easy feat. There’s a reason Boia De topped my takeout list during quarantine. Plated onsite or delivered in a to-go container, the high-quality eats did not skip a beat. It’s no surprise to find that they continue to adapt and roll with the punches as gracefully as can be. Chef Meyer candidly summarized their experience, “2020 sucked, no mincing words there. It definitely took a turn for the better in July when we reopened with the full-service outdoor experience. However, March-June were pretty brutal, doing takeout and delivery. What kept us going the most were the people: our amazing employees who didn’t complain at all and just kept working hard, and the customers who ordered day in and day out who we got to know really well through the ventanita. To an extent, we felt pretty fortunate to have a place to go and people to hang out with when everyone else we knew was quarantining at home. The first anniversary was actually the day we reopened, so it was pretty joyous. Just being able to celebrate our first anniversary despite everything that had happened was a huge relief. We are looking forward to an even better second anniversary as we should be getting close to the end of the pandemic, so it could be a double celebration.”
Will they keep any of the pandemic changes around, such as outdoor dining, once things return to normal? Don’t count on it. They are not excited about that prospect. Understandably so, after working so hard to create a specific vibe inside the restaurant, they want diners to experience the original concept. Sitting outside just doesn’t compare. “We will, however, likely continue our Fried Chicken Sandwich Sundays. It’s a fun, quick, and easy service from 11:30-2:30. It’s good for the business, and we’re proud of the products we serve.”
Chef Luci and Alex want diners to also know safety is and will always be a priority. They do not plan a return to inside dining until it is evident and clear it is safe to do so for both their guests and staff. “We were also only open for 8 months prior to the pandemic, so there is a whole set of people who have only dined with us outside. Reopening inside will be a new beginning for the restaurant and our guests.”
Boia De offers dishes that are not easily compartmentalized into a single category. Alex disclosed they never put much thought into it. He adds, “Everything about Boia De came very naturally: the design, the branding, the menu, and the vibe. Only after putting a menu together did we start to see what it was turning out to be. Only at the end of the process, could we begin describing the food, the closest approximation being, Italian-inspired, seasonal new American. By this, we aren’t constraining ourselves to one specific idea of Italian food, but all the items on the menu you can easily recognize as something in the range of traditional to inspired by something Italian cuisine.”
The menu lists around 18 items or so, and is usually arranged from lightest to most decadent. The toughest part? Deciding what to order when everything is a must-try. Thinking back to my initial visit, one bite is all it took to get hooked. I sat, distracted in conversation, and absentmindedly scooped generous portions of the rich beef tartare using the accompanying grilled bread (now replaced with a crispy to-die-for chicharrón). The creamy and tangy tonnato sauce, and garlic-shallot crumble topping combination captured my immediate attention. Well, that’s one way to kick-off dinner, I thought.
If you still haven’t visited and are ready for a feast, I suggest you order generously. A perfect first dinner for two should start with whatever fresh crudo is highlighted, and followed by two to three appetizers (chicken liver toast, crispy polenta, and beef tartare). For the golden finish, continue with a couple of varied entrees (tagliolini nero and prime Denver steak), and finish with (at least) the crispy tiramisu.
Bianca Sanon, Boia De’s opening wine director, was a recent feature on my SOMM LIKE IT HOT series, highlighting Miami’s vibrant and growing wine scene. Now, however, the wine and beverage program has changed. “Our new somm is Anthony Alvarez. He and Bianca go back several years in the wine world, so when she hand-picked him to be first in line for the job, we were confident in bringing him on board. He has a very similar style to Bianca as far as his focus on natural or low intervention selections, but where he differs is skewing more on new and exciting labels versus Bianca, who had a very well-rounded list of new and classic wine producers.” I, for one, look forward to trusting Alvarez with my sips. Although I often bring in wine at restaurants, Boia De is one of those rare places where I can let my wine guard down and trust the somm to guide me.
“For the dining scene in general, it would be a great boon for the city,” says Meyer, when I asked their valued opinion, knowing Giangrandi and Meyer both have extensive Michelin-starred fine dining backgrounds. As discussed at length on this blog, I too know and acknowledge there is now incredible potential for the addition of a Miami Michelin Guide. To deny it is to have your head stuck in the sand, searching for lost croquetas. The Boia De duo concurs, “There are diners who are so focused on the guide and literally travel the world based on its recommendations. Miami would be introduced to a whole new set of knowledgeable food consumers. And it has always been our strong belief that the diners push restaurant scenes to evolve, grow, and improve themselves. Progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” Mic drop. But wait, there’s more! Would they ever consider hosting a Michelin-style pop-up night? “Sure! For a one-off evening, we’d consider doing pretty much anything. Our kitchen is open for whoever wants to collaborate or pop-up. Those kinds of evenings are always fun for everyone involved.” Noted. Please consider this my official RSVP. What say you, Miami?
BOIA DE? Que?
What exactly does Boia De mean? Well, it seems it’s an Italian phrase used to express surprise, along the lines of “Oh, my!” To further explain the name, I asked the chef-owners to use it in a sentence:
“Two years? Boia De! What a ride!” they replied. You can say that again—cheers to many more, chefs Luci and Alex. South Florida is so honored to have you!
Additional Notes and Tips:
- Reserve on the Resy app.
- If your desired time isn’t available, use the Notify Me option. Trust me, it works!
- Arrive on time. Boia De is a small restaurant, and their reservations are spaced out for safety.
- Parking is free and readily available.
- Enjoy the perks of takeout and delivery while you can.
5205 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137