Eatery in Grove offers a European feel


Focaccia Rustica in the heart of Coconut Grove brings the unrushed eating style of Europe and Latin America to customers.

BY VANESSA GARCIA
For The Herald

While commuters race to work, regulars flock to Grand Avenue's Focaccia Rustica to take a quieter turn to morning.

The smell of classic Italian focaccia bread, studded with herbs and extra virgin olive oil, greets patrons at the door. At the counter, there are apple raspberry tarts, mousses and truffles, while the back holds a selection of wines.

How could such a spot be missed? Perhaps it was the recent construction -- part of the Grand Avenue improvement project -- that impeded the view.

''We opened about two-and-a-half years ago, and everything was doing well,'' said Dominique Pauzat, owner of Focaccia Rustica, 3111 Grand Ave. ``But then they started with the construction, and we lost 60 [percent] to 70 percent of our business because people couldn't get to the front. We don't depend on tourists, and we know everyone who walks in, but we couldn't even get them inside.''

Many of the surrounding businesses suffered the same plight.

''It's been miserable. All the businesses around here will tell you the same,'' said Pauzat's father, Jean-Louis Pauzat, who runs the restaurant with his daughter and son-in-law.

The roadwork on Grand Avenue was part of a beautification project for the neighborhood, which has lasted a year and officially wraps up this month.

These days the sidewalks are mostly clear, though the remnants of a few barricades remain. Emerging from the settling dust is Focaccia Rustica for people to uncover and locals to rediscover.
Whether it's the fresh baked breads and desserts, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese sandwich, or the Norwegian smoked salmon salad -- all are made from scratch and with natural ingredients. Prices for a sandwich average $7, while desserts are about $4.

Sitting at a corner window, it is easy to forget you are in Miami. Classical music plays in the background; the yellow and mahogany decor is accented by the paintings of local artist Michelle Morillo, giving off a feeling of ease.

Pauzat and her husband, Daniel Aguilera, who combined have roots in Mexico and France, have brought the unrushed eating style of Europe and Latin America to their café for customers to enjoy -- once again, without the sound of drilling in the background.

Quick Bites is a regular feature that spotlights local restaurants. Reporters dine anonymously at Herald expense, but do not review the food. The feature is aimed at telling readers what kinds of restaurants are in their neighborhoods. Got a place we should check out? E-mail Marika Lynch at mlynch@herald.com, or write her at Miami Herald Neighbors, 7300 N. Kendall Dr., Suite 200, Miami, FL 33156; Attention: Quick Bites.