MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – It’s that time of year again where foodies flock to the sands of Miami Beach.
It was the second day of the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which is happening from Feb. 19–23.READ MORE: Coral Springs Police: 3 Separate Crime Scenes Tied To One Suspect
Thursday night’s big event: Barilla’s Italian Bites on the Beach.
The Italy-inspired affair was co-hosted by Giada de Laurentiis, the American queen of Italian cuisine, and Dario Cecchini, known as the world’s most famous butcher.
More than 30 chefs from all over the country served dishes inspired by various regions of Italy.
Evert-goers found Italian staples from pastas to meatballs to pastries like cannolis. But chefs also served up delicious dishes like crudo and steak salad with Italian inspiration.
Chef Michael Lomonaco from Porter House New York has been a part of the festival for years and also participates in the New York versions. This year, he decided on a grilled flank steak in Sicilian style.
Chef Michael Brewer from New Orleans is a newcomer. The former electrical engineer turned chef decided on a Louisiana crab gnocchi to showcase the best of his home state. After Thursday’s event, he’s heading back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
Local restaurateurs like Yesenia and Marc Randazzo of Randazzo’s were also in attendance.
The husband and wife couple have been a part of SOBE WFF for over 10 years. They say every time they try to take a break, something just keeps pulling them back.
“Great food, great food destination, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Marc.READ MORE: Brightline Celebrates 3 Years Of Service As It Nears Orlando Extension Completion
Stefania Addari of Bufarella La Pizza Di Napoli and David Falchi of Dōma are newcomers to the South Florida restaurant scene. Both are hoping this weekend will give them some exposure and love from foodies and restaurant-goers.
Gregory Sgarro, executive chef of Isabelle’s Grill Room & Garden at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove, has been at various restaurants in the past decade, representing many of them here at the wine and food festival.
“South Florida really came into its own food scene. It’s grown tremendously,” said Sgarro. “It’s Miami at its best.”
Proceeds from the Festival benefit the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University. Around 1,200 students volunteer during the five-day festival, helping the chefs.
“We actually couldn’t do this without the students,” said de Laurentiis. “It’s really fantastic to watch their light ups… reminds us how special we are to have this career and influence we can have on this generation coming up.”
To date, the festival has raised more than $30 million for the school.
This five-day, star-studded gourmet gathering consists of more than 100 events spanning across three countries.
The festival features more than 450 chefs, winemakers, spirits producers, celebrities and culinary personalities throughout the weekend.MORE NEWS: Ronald Acuña's 1st Game In Miami Since Knee Injury, Leads Braves Past Marlins 5-3
For more information and tickets to the more than 100 events, go to SOBEWFF.org.