Hoping to excite consumers’ appetites for shopping, Saks Fifth Avenue has unveiled its first luxury food concept in the U.S. at Brickell City Centre in Miami: Casa Tua Cucina, an 18,000-square-foot Italian and Mediterranean restaurant and marketplace.
Saks’ 107,550-square-foot unit, which bowed at Brickell in 2016, at the time was the retailer’s first new store to open in 30 years. The 500,000-square-foot Brickell City Centre opened after four years of construction as part of a $1.05 billion mixed-use project in the Brickell business and banking district.
Food isn’t new to Saks, nor is it entirely novel to consumers. Saks Food Halls — Pusateri’s Fine Foods — have opened at two Canadian stores, CF Sherway Gardens and CF Toronto Eaton Centre.
Shopping centers have been plugging food concepts into spaces left vacant due to bankruptcies and downsizings. The few new mall projects, such as Brickell, are featuring food halls prominently. In fact, Casa Tua isn’t the only food hall in the mall. Another Italian one, La Centrale, occupies 40,000 square feet on three levels.
Casa Tua Cucina offers 10 dining stations, a 300-seat restaurant, full bar, a flower market and a home goods shop, featuring a selection of home and kitchen accessories made by local and international artisans, and Casa Tua private label products. The menu consists of classic dishes and new recipes created exclusively for the location, which can be eaten onsite or ordered for takeout.
Casa’s stations hit all the Italian high notes, including pizza — in this case, it’s of the Northern Italian crispy variety; prepared foods and Italian specialties such as lasagna; rotisserie chicken and meats; smoked salmon; grain salad; caviar, and prosciutto and cheeses. Crudo + Grill features fine meats and local and imported fish, while Pane features handmade breads, focaccia and grissini baked fresh on-site every hour. Casa has an on-site bakery at Brickell.
The venue’s pastas are handmade on-site and paired with proprietary sauces.
Dolci, the pastry bar and dessert station, goes beyond the typical cannoli to include chocolatini and other signature sweets. There’s a coffee bar serving Caffe Passalacqua, a Neapolitan blend that, according to Saks, is not available anywhere else in the U.S. Meanwhile, the 30-seat wine, beer and cocktail bar offers more than 60 wines by the glass, artisanal Italian beers and local draft beers and cocktails.
An enormous stainless steel open grill is the centerpiece of Casa. At the restaurant, steaks, pizzas, salads, pastas and panini receive three dollar sign designation for expensive. Prices range from $11 for pizzas to $140 for Tomahawk steaks.
“The future of retail is the new luxury — reaching consumers in a more meaningful way by creating experiences and entertainment in-store and beyond,” said Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick. “The purpose of restaurants in our stores has changed in today’s new luxury. They’re less about satisfying hunger. They really have to be destinations in and of themselves.
“Restaurants are great ways to both entice our clients to shop in-store, but also to stay in stores longer and ultimately purchase…maybe even become loyal customers,” Metrick continued. “We like to think that the luxury client no longer wants simply to transact, they want to experience something and we want to provide them with that something, be it be fantastic food, a quiet spot to relax, a fitness class, special event or otherwise. Ultimately, it’s a means for them to return and to shop with us again.”
One of the most popular features of Casa could be the takeout menus. Customer traffic includes Brickell’s flagship hotel — and more than 100,000 office workers housed in two towers that are part of the project. There’s been a dearth of food options for them until recently, said Debora Overholt, vice president of retail at developer Swire Properties.
Metrick believes the new gastronomic fare will appeal to a wide range of consumers. “By partnering with a local, yet globally renowned partner like Casa Tua, we’re providing our clients with a one-of-a-kind, authentic experience,” he said. “Casa Tua literally means ‘your home.’ The brand’s foundation is centered around family, friends and community. It’s much more than a restaurant, it is a neighborhood destination with loyal clients. This sense of home, comfort and loyalty fits perfectly at Saks.”
Casa Tua was founded by Italian-born Miky Grendene in Miami in 2002, with a hotel, restaurant and Miami’s first private members club. It expanded in 2010 to Aspen.