Celebrity Chef Donatella Arpaia to Take Over Two Miami

Earlier today, veteran restaurateur, TV personality, and certified Neapolitan pizza maker Donatella Arpaia announced her return to the culinary world.

Arpaia, who’s 50, will take over operations at two Coral Gables restaurants, Redfish and Forte.

When Arpaia relocated to Miami from New York City with her husband and their young son in 2018, she was pregnant with twins. Two years later, when the pandemic hit, the chef tells New Times, she took advantage of the downtime to explore Miami’s neighborhoods to determine what she could create from a unique culinary perspective.

Arpaia says she found precisely that with Redfish and Forte, two restaurants that are, not coincidentally, close to her Pinecrest home.

“For me to start in this business again, it had to be the perfect location and I had to feel inspired,” Arpaia elaborates. “Both concepts are really what I see as a void in the area, and from there putting my Italian spin on them.”

Both restaurants were opened by Miami chef Adrianne Calvo, who announced in a pair of June 22 Instagram posts that she would be stepping away from the Coral Gables ventures she’d debuted amid the pandemic in partnership with Barreto Hospitality.

Arpaia, who will take over where Calvo left off with Barreto, says she’s excited to return to the culinary world in Miami. Known as a trailblazing attorney-turned-culinary phenom, Arpaia left a career in law to open her first restaurant, Bellini, at age 25, followed by Davidburke & Donatella.

She later attended the French Culinary Institute and continued her studies in Naples under master pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia. There followed a string of popular New York City-based establishments, including Mia Dona, Anthos, Kefi, and Eos, and the eponymous Donatella.

Today, the celebrity chef is best known as the founder of Prova Pizzabar and head judge for Food Network’s Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef.

She tells New Times she immediately “fell in love” with the renovated Redfish, located in Matheson Hammock Park and Coral Gables’ only dedicated waterfront restaurant property.

“It’s such a special place, a real diamond in the rough that I consider a gem for this neighborhood and Miami,” Arpaia says. “And just two miles from my house, it will allow me to be at the restaurant. Presence is important to me, and I plan to be a big part of what goes on in the kitchen.”

On Saturday, July 2, Forte will close as renovations commence. Following a complete remodel, a relaunch is slated for October. Arpaia says a new name has yet to be chosen but that the restaurant will be rooted in traditional Italian cuisine that reflects seasonality and coastal fare influenced by the Iberian peninsula. The restaurant’s wood-burning oven will bring Arpaia’s pizza skills into play, offering what she describes as a mix of traditional and unique offerings (the latter represented by a sea urchin and burrata pie) alongside a selection of small plates suited for enjoyment on hot days.

As for Redfish, the restaurant will remain open as Arpaia oversees a transitional menu. An official relaunch is planned for 2023, with a new name and a menu that focuses on seafood and Italian specialties like Arpaia’s homemade take on Sicilian-style brioche and gelato ice cream sandwiches.

“I want to focus on crudo fish, light dishes, and a lunch menu with a ton of really great salads — what I feel is a lost art of sorts and definitely something missing in Miami,” says Arpaia, who intends to keep Redfish’s casual vibe while offering an elevated level of service and enhancing the nighttime atmosphere.

“I see that location as a crown jewel for the area and want to make sure that is conveyed in what I do,” she explains.