Nino Pernetti: Caffe Abbracci

As dining increasingly becomes about experience, much has been made about the spectacle of eating. This development can be seen all over Miami’s burgeoning districts, with restaurants and chefs tripping over themselves to offer unique culinary blends and distinctly hip atmospheres to appeal to their affluent clientele. 


But for 29 years, Nino Pernetti of Caffe Abbracci has rejected pageantry in favor of something that’s become increasingly lost: intimacy. As a Coral Gables staple, Caffe Abbracci has become well-known for providing a welcoming atmosphere in addition to its excellent food. This all comes down to a subject that comes up repeatedly in conversation with Pernetti, namely, the importance of family.


“85% of our customers are regulars. Because we were, we are, and will be a family restaurant,” Pernetti says. “I don’t do any gimmicks, I don’t do happy hours, I don’t do music, I don’t do 2-for-1; strictly good food, good service, that’s what we sell, that’s what we have.” 


Even in the face of ever-changing aesthetics and audiences, Pernetti has clung steadfastly to offer Caffe Abbracci patrons a simple, authentic Italian dining experience. The restaurant is Zagat rated, and has attracted many famous faces over the years. Whether it be athletes like Lebron James, former presidents such as Bill Clinton, or legendary musicians like Paul McCartney, many have come far and wide to taste what Pernetti and his staff have to offer.


“I remember when DeNiro walked in one day,” Pernetti reminisces. “I told him that many people tell me I look like DeNiro. When he walked in I told him “oh, you’re the guy that looks like me!” And he never stopped laughing.”


It certainly helps that Pernetti is proud to call Coral Gables his home. Despite all of the changes the Gables have undergone through the decades, he admires the city’s simultaneous reconciliation of the past with the possibilities of the future. 


“The city of Coral Gables goes hand in hand with its name: the city beautiful,” Pernetti says. “Though it remains true to the tradition as an old city – a colonial city, a Spanish colonial city – at the same time you’ve got to be aware that you need to be into the future. It’s my understanding that everybody wants to come to the Gables because it’s the future of the city.”


Looking to the future, Pernetti anticipates continuing to serve further generations of regulars, some of whom have attended the restaurant for up to three generations. Joking about extending lines of credit to the grandchildren of frequent patrons, Pernetti is unabashedly proud of what Caffe Abbracci has accomplished, and the legacy it has already left on Coral Gables.


“A child says if this was good for my father or grandfather, it’s good for me. Because our grandparents were our mentors. So they come back.”