Crème de la Crème

Antonio Braschi, owner of Kazumi and Costa Med in Key Biscayne, shares his story of cooking up the ideas for his world-class restaurants and his secrets to cultivating family, quality food and culinary surprises.
Words // Bianca Sproul | Photos of Kazumi & Costa Med // Edward Leal | February 23, 2024 | Lifestyle
People Cheers Celebration Toast Happiness Togetherness Concept

Restaurateur Antonio Braschi began to cook up his culinary journey when he studied Hotel & Restaurant Management, eventually hopping to different opportunities all over the world — from Nassau and San Juan to Caracas and, eventually, Key Biscayne. After a hurricane swept through Puerto Rico in 1989, he returned to his hometown of Caracas to continue working in the restaurant business at Eurobuilding Hotel & Suites. Shortly after his return to Venezuela’s capital, the worsening political climate pressured him to head north to The Magic City. When the government continued to sour in his home country, Braschi set his family’s roots in Key Biscayne and purchased a cafeteria that would soon become Kazumi. 

He kept the heat low for the first couple years in his new restaurant at The Square. “We waited about a year and a half to fully understand what people on the island were like and what they wanted,” he says. Around the same time, an opportunity opened up next door to acquire a neighboring restaurant. And so Braschi added Costa Med to Key Biscayne’s restaurant world. 

After a whirlwind of changes on the island following the 2008 recession, Braschi dialed in Kazumi’s targeted crowd: the future generation. He credits his goal of keeping Kazumi youthful by tapping into Japanese cuisine — which inherently keeps the space feeling young. This parallels the Mediterranean selection of Costa Med, intended to reflect a more traditional, family-centric atmosphere. “Youth is the future — but youth will not stay young,” he says. “Eventually the younger generation will become professionals and parents and their tastes will change.” In addition to first-rate ingredients, family is important to Antonio Braschi, who raised his children with his wife, Elisa, on Key Biscayne. He brings that inviting philosophy to the table in Kazumi and Costa Med. Yin and yang, Costa Med paralleles Kazumi as the slightly older, but still family-oriented counterpart. No matter if they’re famous or an island local (or both!), Braschi embraces everyone in his restaurants: “We give everybody a lot of love and a lot of attention,” he says. 

It’s not just the high-quality starters and mains that yield a “Made With Love” menu. Braschi says his wife is a pastry chef who contributes no less than 10 different homemade desserts on a daily basis to the menus of the restaurants. “I have a lot of fun reading people at the door when they come in and figuring out if they’re new residents on the island or just visitors passing through…Where are they from? Are they celebrating a birthday or special occasion? I’ve gotten better at guessing over the years!”

As the years passed since both restaurants opened, Braschi has been pleased to see generations of Key Biscayners continue to bring their families. “I’ve met many of them when they were in high school, and now they are professionals — then they get married and stop in with their kids, their parents and grandparents! I take care of two or three generations at once, which is really rewarding and beautiful.” One notable customer who lived to be 101 years old spent the better part of 15 years celebrating her birthdays at the restaurant. “She even celebrated her milestone 100th birthday with us!”

Steaming food in the frying pan

As for how Braschi’s restaurants have survived turbulent times such as recessions and, most recently, the pandemic, he offers sage insights: “Always be gutsy and listen to your customers,” he says. “When things get tough, most restaurants will reduce quantity or quality, or both. So they’ll give you less of a big portion. Or they’ll go to a different quality of fish or meat.” He likens it to browsing for clothing. “You can go to a high-end boutique or department store and buy something that will last and stand the test of time, or you can go find trendy fast fashions that will need to be replaced after a few washes. We pride ourselves on being the best. The island has an above average clientele with exacting tastes, and we strive to give them an exceptional level of service and quality each time they dine with us.”

Raising his children in such a tight-knit island community also means that his clientele aren’t just random strangers. They are his neighbors, friends and extended family. All the feedback he’s received from his customers over the years came from genuine connections and a desire to see a local family-owned business succeed. “It’s all about the people,” he says. “This is an industry where your ego doesn’t count. Establishing a satisfied clientele is the ultimate goal. Once you understand that, everything else falls into place.”;;