Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018
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Honest, straightforward Italian cuisine

Along with the food, chef Michael Schwartz says ambiance, service, smell, what you hear and see and how you’re made to feel are all important in the experience

Honest, straightforward Italian cuisine featuring fresh ingredients from the hearth and the simplicity of handmade artisanal breads and house-made pasta — that is chef Michael Schwartz’s Fi’lia, whose most recent outpost officially opened its doors in the casino at Baha Mar. It’s where a meal begins with a crusty loaf with olive oil into which the waitstaff snips oregano tableside, zinging your sense of smell, preparing it for what’s to come.

Fi’lia’s dinner menu features small, large and extra large plates alongside snacks, sides, pasta and pizza.

Beef carpaccio is chef Schwartz’s twist on the classic, featuring sunchoke, green onion pecorino and mustard vinaigrette; while the extra large grilled whole snapper features tomato, Calabrian chili, mint and grilled bread.

Rustic pizzas are served with creative topping combinations like pistachio pesto with ricotta, charred onion and pecorino.

The tableside Caesar salad is prepared from scratch — from the dressing to grated parmigiano finish on a roaming cart, with the delicious smells of toasted garlic croutons in the air.

While there are beautiful items on the menu to be had, it’s the simple ingredients in Fi’lia’s Caesar salad that epitomize, a signature item as far as the James Beard award-winning chef is concerned.

“Everyone will be like really … he went there,” said Schwartz.

“A Caesar salad to me is the art of simplicity. It’s a handful of ingredients, and if you execute it perfectly, it’s the best thing ever — just the balance and flavors. And we spent a lot of time on the Caesar salad and designing that cart — they’re all custom-made so that we could toast the garlic croutons to order, and you smell that. And you watch them mashing the anchovies, and making the emulsion. But to me those five ingredients sing.

“We don’t want to be the tricked out, over-complicated, ‘I don’t know what I just ate’ kind of thing. It’s the simple ingredients that are executed perfectly, and that Caesar salad epitomizes it.”

As a whole, a balanced experience is what he wants people to remember after their meal. He wants them to remember that it made them feel good.

“For me as a chef, you would think that the most important thing is the food — and I do think the food is really important, but it’s the overall experience. So it’s the ambiance, it’s the service, it’s what you smell, and what you hear and what you see, and how you’re made to feel,” he said. “Did somebody remember your name, or your preference in a cocktail, or an allergy? And those are the things that make up an experience.”

Fi’lia is open, but it remains a work in progress as the chef and his team feel out the process and the feedback from people and make adjustments.

“Some of it frankly is accessibility issues, and figuring out the food chain and logistics, and then some of it was maybe bringing a little more luxury items to a setting in a resort like this on the casino floor,” he said.  “I think it’s a work in progress, as we feel out the process, and get the feedback and make adjustments.”

He is excited for it all.

“Our chef here worked with us for a long time. We had a restaurant in Grand Cayman, and he lived it and breathed it and really embraced the local agriculture and fishing community on that island, and he’s really looking forward to doing the same thing here — meeting the locals, bringing in as much local product as he can. And he’s really good at it,” said Schwartz.

He described Fi’lia at Baha Mar as a special place.

“From what I’ve seen, and the people that I’ve interacted with, and our staff that have been so enthusiastic about this restaurant … and willing to learn, and take it on — it’s an honor for me to be here. It’s exciting.”

Fi’lia features 202 seats of indoor and outdoor seating. It is Fi’lia’s first international outpost and second location overall after opening at SLS Brickell in Miami last year.

Fi’lia is open Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., serving lunch and dinner. For reservations and menus, visit www.filiarestaurant.com or call 788-8212.

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