By Kara Franker
Like the fine wines in their famous cellar, The Forge of Miami Beach only improves with age. The Forge Restaurant and Wine Bar in Miami Beach has attracted A-list celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, South Beach socialites and international financiers for decades.
There is no doubt that you come for the food. Chef Dewey Losasso, a creative genius in the kitchen, designed a menu that pays homage to the past of the Forge Restaurant of Miami Beach and highlights farm-to-table and ocean-to-table ingredients. You can’t go wrong with this menu. Chef Dewey is also a talented guitarist, so make sure to ask him to strum a few chords for you.
I was particularly interested in the history of the Forge. As I entered the main dining room, general manager, Justin Maas, explained how The Forge was actually a forge – a blacksmith shop built in the early 1920s by Dino Phillips, who designed iron gates for wealthy Miami Beach families such as the Firestones and the Vanderbilts. Phillips turned his forge into a restaurant and casino, attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason throughout the years.
Alvin Malnik purchased the Forge of Miami Beach, FL in 1968 and transformed the restaurant into a luxurious showcase for his European collection of art and antiques. I marveled at the original 13th century sconces from Napoleon's bedchamber, stained glass from Trinity Church in Manhattan and hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers from Italy.
Shareef Malnik took over for his father in 1991 and embarked on a complete renovation of The Forge in 2010. He designed custom-made furniture, including tables made of trees from Indonesia. The distinctive chairs reminded me of an elegant take on Alice in Wonderland. Malnik also integrated new technology throughout the restaurant. GM Justin Mass adjusted the restaurant’s lighting using his iPhone so my photographer could take better pictures. Six different satellites can pipe in music from radio stations around the world – this can also be adjusted on an iPhone.
Executive Sommelier, Gino Santangelo, escorted us down into the wine cellar, containing an immense collection of vintages including an 1822 Chateau Lafitte Rothschild, part of Shareef Malnik’s personal collection. Santangelo has worked at The Forge for 36 years and, throughout his career, has made wine suggestions for Al Pacino, Liza Minnelli, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Madonna, and the list goes on and on.
The Forge of Miami Beach has adapted and changed physically over the years, but this Miami Beach icon has always attracted the rich and famous. If you go, make reservations in advance and be sure to ask for the tour.