Chef Romeo Majano sits across from me in a dimly lit room with rich wood paneling and bottles of wine lining the walls. He’s comfortably sitting in his chair, relaying stories of his career trajectory over glasses of wine to me and my husband, who are drinking in both with the kind of reserved awe and excitement I imagine one would usually experience in the presence of a celebrity. Which, I suppose, Chef Romeo could be considered.
After 17 years of building Romeo’s Cafe into the quiet, dignified, yet renowned Miami establishment it is today, it feels appropriate to label Chef Romeo bit of celebrity himself – an institution in a city that loves its trends and gimmicks. But you won’t find any of the latter here. Nor will you find a printed menu. Tell him what you like, love, will or will not eat, and he will create something just for you.
Though the concept is novel – and remains so after the number of years in which he’s established it – the method remains tried and true: cook great food, and cook it well. And with a custom approach to tailor-made menus for each and every table, Romeo’s Cafe is the most innovative classic in the city that’s learning to appreciate a bit of both. If you consider yourself a foodie by any means, a night out at Romeo’s Cafe is the experience you’ve been waiting to brag about.
When it comes to career progression, Chef Romeo has truly carved out his own path. The self-taught chef began his profession by washing dishes in a gourmet kitchen and working his way up, one rung at a time. At one point, he found himself the resident chef at a luxury Bal Harbour apartment complex inhabited by wealthy residents with a slew of dietary restrictions and a variety of preferences. It was through this demanding on-the-job training that he developed the style he’s known for today.
And as a plate of pappardelle in antelope ragout is set before me, I refrain from asking what he’d have to do if someone wasn’t a fan of his cooking. Because as I take in one bite of the thick ribbons of pasta in the perfectly rich, meaty sauce, any doubt I’ve had is quickly abated and instead replaced with that sensation of warmth and appreciation I can’t help but liken to my grandmother’s cooking. It’s not just the flavors of home; it’s the care and love that’s been infused into everything. And that’s simply hard to come by in this very transient city.
We chat and sip on wine, and he tells us stories of being young and developing his work. He shares photos of his days as a body builder and marathon runner, the reason he cooks with only fresh and healthy ingredients. And he shares his experiences as young chef, coming into his own, with celebrities and politicians, and regular families alike, all frequenting his restaurant year after year, generation after generation. Dishes of paper-thin carpaccio, spicy seared tuna, and creamy risotto are dropped and eagerly consumed. And we listen attentively as this man with the gifted hands and the creative spirit regales us with the story of his passionate life.
And I can tell that he’s proud of what he’s built, even if he does admit it’s taken hours, years, making it the first thing he does in the morning, and the last thing he does at night. But he loves it. He’s passionate about it. And he makes it a point to relay that. Even though it’s clearly evident. There’s no way a man can put his soul on a plate if he hasn’t been chosen and gifted for it. And Chef Romeo clearly has.
Romeo’s Cafe is an intimate dining establishment that books up rather quickly, so if you’d like to try your luck at snagging a table for Valentine’s Day, you may have a chance at experiencing a five course meal with wine pairing at about $125/pp. I had a sneak peek of one of the potential dishes (a delicate lasagna with lobster, crab, and mussels made for one) and it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
However, if you don’t find yourself lucky enough to book a Valentine’s Day spot, then I sincerely suggest setting up a reservation for any other night to experience the usual six course offering. Either of these will be tailor made to your tastes and specifications, with the promise that you’ll absolutely love what he prepares – or he’ll just make you a new dish until you are absolutely satisfied. But if my experience is any indication, I have a feeling he’ll only need one shot. To book a dinner reservation at Romeo’s Cafe, call (305) 859-2228.
Thank you to Chef Romeo and his team for the warm hospitality and delicious meal. We will certainly be visiting again soon.