South Beach gets plenty of sunshine. But when it rains, it floods. “Sometimes we call it Venice,” says Pietro Vardeu, executive chef and co-owner of Sunset Harbour eatery Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante.

In the past, when the flooding turned Sardinia into an island (fittingly, considering its namesake), employees would rent electric carts with oversize tires to ferry customers from a nearby parking lot to the restaurant’s front door.

“You have to do whatever it takes,” says Vardeu’s partner, restaurateur Antonio Gallo. That attitude helps to explain how Sardinia managed to thrive in Sunset Harbour in the years before the neighborhood became a culinary hotbed, which now boasts a growing lineup of hip eateries, a gourmet café, a yoga studio, a high-end juice bar, a Fresh Market, and, perhaps most consequentially, a 460-space parking garage.

Vardeu and Gallo, both natives of Italy, opened Sardinia in 2006 to serve the simple, authentic cuisine of their homeland to South Beach locals. Save for Purdy Lounge and the now-closed restaurant Joe Allen, the neighborhood wasn’t a destination, and Vardeu, who had a stint as food and beverage director at Lincoln Road staples Tiramesu and Van Dyke Café, received plenty of grief for his decision to open in the area. “When I mentioned to some friends of mine that I chose this [location],” he recalls, “it was like, ‘We know you’re crazy, but you must be out of your mind.’”

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