With a major summer remodel planned, downtown Miami’s beloved family-owned Italian restaurant Fratelli Milano is getting ready to celebrate its eighteenth anniversary in December. In preparation for the busiest time of year later this year, the makeover will include a new café, a hip bar, and updated food options.

When Milanese twin brothers Roberto and Emanuele Bearzi founded Fratelli Milano in 2006, they immediately won over a devoted fan base. Emanuele is the pastry, pasta, and artisanal bread specialist, while Roberto is the executive chef. Reflecting on their journey, general manager and co-owner Fiorella Blanco shares, “Fratelli Milano was the dream of my partners Roberto and Emanuele and mine. All three of us had been working for years in the restaurant business. We wanted to try our luck with a family-owned and operated eatery where people from all walks of life could come and enjoy quality fresh Italian food at a reasonable price.”

Starting as a modest 20-seat establishment, the high demand quickly necessitated expansion. Blanco adds, “Back then, there were just a handful of full-service restaurants downtown, and we seized the opportunity to cater to the business crowd.” The eatery quickly expanded to its present 80 seats, which includes patio seating.

The Bearzi brothers grew up in northern Italy, where their grandmothers made substantial soups and stews for get-togethers. The cuisine at Fratelli Milano pays homage to those memories with a nostalgic touch. The restaurant takes great satisfaction in providing dishes that are amply portioned and economically priced. Many of the components, such as sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil, are imported from Italy.

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Free housemade ciabatta is served to patrons who order the restaurant’s famous sun-dried tomato paste. There’s lasagna, gnocchi, pappardelle, and fettuccine among the freshly made pasta options; the short rib ravioli with burrata and Bolognese sauce is a particular favorite. The Vitello alla Milanese is another famous meal. It is a cutlet topped with chopped bocconcini mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and it is served with arugula and olive oil scented with lemon. More than 10 selections are available for dessert, ranging from classic tiramisu to regionally influenced dishes like dulce de leche panna cotta.

Reflecting on the evolution of downtown Miami, Blanco notes, “In recent years, many more restaurants and bars have opened in the area, which has helped bring more pedestrians. We believe once all the work in Flagler is completed and more businesses open, downtown will become once again the thriving area it once was.”

Blanco outlines their aspirational goals. The crew chose to update Fratelli Milano in response to growing competition from new restaurant groups. They did this by closing the restaurant for a few months during the summer and expanding the space. They also added extra indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar for happy hour, and an adjacent café. There are plans to change the menu as well, with an emphasis on the latest dietary trends that call for healthier comfort food alternatives like handmade gluten-free spaghetti. Furthermore, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, they will be offering a traditional Italian brunch that will include freshly baked frittatas and pastries. 

The Fratelli team is committed to maintaining the restaurant’s core values: homey, welcoming, and serving homemade pasta. Blanco concludes, “We’ve always been unpretentious, and people love that. Our goal has always been to create a place where everyone feels welcome, and we’re excited to continue that tradition with a fresh new look and exciting new offerings.”