Giada De Laurentiis Ushers In the 15th South Beach Wine & Food Festival with Italian Bites on the Beach

Check out insider photos from Italian Bites on the Beach, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival event that Giada hosted last night.
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Think beyond burgers, chicken tenders and frozen cocktails because when Giada throws a beach party, the name of the game is Italian fare. She kicked off the South Beach Wine & Food Festival last night with Italian Bites on the Beach, a seaside soiree worthy of the festival's landmark 15th anniversary. Featuring everything from pasta and pizza to sweet tiramisu-inspired treats and flowing red wine, this sold-out event brought together chefs from across the country for an evening of walk-around tastings and dancing in the sand to a live band.

Along with mingling and snapping photos with fans, Giada took to her station at the party to offer festivalgoers a bite of her signature dish of the night: Orzo Meatballs with Mozzarella, a two-bite skewered snack featuring a moist meatball, fragrant fresh basil and an herbed mozzarella ball.

While red sauce-focused pastas, like this Creste with Spicy Pork Sausage, Toasted Fennel and Heirloom Tomato Sauce pictured above, were indeed present, the pastas that featured white sauce — or no sauce at all — were enough to stop us in our tracks.

Instead of offering a dish with a traditional tomato-based Bolognese sauce, the team from San Francisco's SPQR made Gnocchetti with White Bolognese (pictured above), topped with nutty cheese and plenty of pepper for a welcome bite.

Miami Beach's Dolce Italian served up Veal Breast, Agnolotti, Truffled Leeks and Sughetto (pictured above), a delicate dish of stuffed pasta purses finished with a savory, silky Roasted Veal Jus.

You know how Italians prefer their pasta al dente? The team from Bocce in Miami went one step further and prepared perhaps the ultimate al dente noodles by frying them. The Mezzi Rigatoni, Ricotta e Prosciutto (pictured above) started with crispy, crunchy noodles, which were piped by hand with a creamy, cheesy prosciutto stuffing. (Check out the piping in action here.) We couldn't help but munch on these one after another like we do potato chips.

Presenting not just pastas, tonight's chefs brought their best takes on other Italian favorites, like Arancini — a stuffed rice ball — from Miami Beach's Cibo Wine Bar that garnered a long line of hungry fans. The Coccoli with Prosciutto di Parma, Truffle Honey, Pesto and Stracchino (pictured above) from Prime Italian in Miami Beach also brought an expansive line of partygoers. This light, crispy-on-the-outside dough was layered with salty ham and melty cheese, then drizzled with sticky honey to create a savory-sweet take on a sandwich. Perhaps best of all: It was served piping hot so the dough stayed crisp and the cheese gooey.

While dessert may be traditionally enjoyed after the main dish, fans at last night's bash could mix up their bites as they wished. Not long after the party began, we made our way to La Sweetz's booth for a taste of Tiramisu Cupcakes (pictured above), individual portions of the Italian classic that were finished with a fluffy mascarpone-laced topping.

Part sweet spectacle and part pop-up ice-cream shop, the Three Two Oh! booth offered ice cream that was frozen on-site with minus 320-degree F liquid nitrogen. We caught up with a team member from the eatery, and he told us that these exceedingly cold temperatures can freeze a whole gallon of ice cream in just 60 seconds.

There was no shortage of classics to be had on the plate last night. And as it turns out, there was also a vast showing of an Italian favorite on the ceiling — the tent — too. Yes, those are indeed dancing images of pasta projected high above the crowd.

Keep coming back to FN Dish all weekend long for more insider coverage of the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

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