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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – As the South Beach Wine and Food Festival celebrates its 18th year on Miami Beach this week, the Thursday night special “Barilla’s Italian Bites on the Beach” is back and hosted again by top chef, author, and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis.

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CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo caught up Giada during last year’s event, asking her why she thinks this event is so popular.

“I think it’s also this town the fact that we can cook and eat on the beach. There’s really no better place, it’s warm and its fun.  There is no better place than here in February. It’s a big party!” she said

The event features more than 30 of the nation’s greatest chefs serving up dishes originating from various regions of Italy.

Petrillo heads the kitchen of Cecconi’s at Soho Beach House to meet with Executive Chef Sergio Sigala.

He’s cooking the dish for her that he’ll prepare for Italian Bites.

It’s Cavatelli Pasta with Maine Lobster, chili and basil. Last year was his first Italian Bites experience.

“Last year we made about 1000 plates, we had 4 guys cooking pasta, and 1000 people in line so it was a really exciting moment,” Sigala said.

Chef Sergio has been with Cecconi’s since it opened almost 9 years ago.

“It’s grown a lot, even though we started with a big boom. We have a lot of repeat customers every day, every week. It’s become a destination point for Miami,” he said.

Located in the courtyard of Soho Beach House, this relaxed, mostly outdoor piazza style restaurant is a modern day classic Italian eatery serving handmade pasta, pizzas, seafood, meats and more.

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“You’ve got the woods and the plants, it feels like Italy, right?” asked Petrillo.

“Yes. The vines growing on the patio, it transfers you to be in Tuscany,” chef said.

He serves up a Cecconi’s special, seared octopus, capers, celery and olives.

“You have all the flavors from Italy basically. The olives, the capers, the celery, which is the crunchiness and the chilies, which brings out the spices,” said Chef.

“I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you because I want the whole thing for myself,” laughed Petrillo.

And finally the dish for Italian Bites; the cavatelli with Maine lobster, chili & basil.

“I love this combination of flavors because the cavatelli is the pasta with ricotta inside, so it brings out the sweetness of the pasta which goes great with the flavor of the lobster bisque and the cognac inside the lobster,” said Chef.

“That was the first thing I noticed,” said Petrillo. “There’s a smoothness with the lobster then the heat comes out.  It’s a great combination and pasta is cooked perfectly.”

Cecconi’s is open 7 days week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Italian Bites on the Beach is Thursday night at 7pm.

For more info on Cecconi’s, visit www.cecconismiamibeach.com.

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For more info on South Beach Wine and Food Festival events, visit https://sobewff.org.

Lisa Petrillo