We were at a loss for words once we stepped into the three-story Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive on Miami Beach. Gianni Versace bought the 23,000 square foot villa in 1992 and began a $33 million renovation. The space now serves as a boutique hotel, restaurant and event space.

There are 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and an observatory all finished with hand-painted walls and fresco ceilings. You enter the villa, just steps away from the gates where Versace was murdered.

Reservations are highly suggested, especially if you want to dine poolside. Dining is situated on two floors outside by the mosaic-tiled courtyard featuring a Medusa surrounded by a 54 foot-long pool lined with 24 karat gold. There is a private bar called Onyx serving hand crafted cocktails, opulent dining room with mosaics and a courtyard with plush chairs and a beautiful fountain to relax by.

The menu at Gianni’s has a Mediterranean flair. Start with an appetizer, soup or salad. There is polenta, spanish octopus, black truffle risotto, blue crab salad, burrata and more. Or start with tuna tartare, shrimp or lobster cocktail or beef carpaccio. And, if you are feeling totally extravagant check out the caviar served with blinis, creme fraiche and class condiments.

On the dinner menu is seafood ranging from key west prawns to maine lobster, chicken, gnocchi and spaghetti with tomato ragu, dry ricotta, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The signature meat dishes are over the top in size, all served ala carte. There are lamb chops, bone-in ribeye, new york strip, wagu filet, kosher ribeye and veal tomahawk. To go with your meat entrée try the brussel sprouts and asparagus.

It was truly a romatic experience with the delicious food and beautiful surroundings. It is amazing how you can’t hear the hustle and bustle of South Beach inside the mansion. The service was extraordinary. You feel like you really are living like the rich and famous or hoping a movie star might stop by. We read Madonna, Princess Diana and many others were guests of Versace. It has also been the backdrop for movies and many photo shoots.

We were lucky enough to get a personal tour from the food and beverage director. So off we went past the stanchions and up the stairs to the observatory with blue ceiling, gold stars and hand painted tiles that lead up to it. The observatory can’t be seen from the street.

Casa Casuarina formerly The Versace Mansion (Gianni’s at the Villa)

To dine there is a dress code. No beach or tourist wear, no ripped jeans or flip-flops. Men do not have to wear jackets.

There are 10 suites upstairs all designed with themes. There is the safari, Wedgwood, italian, and the La Mer. There is the superior suites and exceptional suites with three types of room and the one bedroom suite with four types of rooms.

This is a definite must. We are already planning on next trip for dinner and perhaps a stay at the villa.

#seasonthisblog #versace #southbeach