Everyone knows the history of Miami’s most famous property, the Versace Mansion. Once owned by fashion legend Gianni Versace, who invested millions into restoring the Mediterranean style villa into his private residence; the venue turned into one of the world’s most famous crime scenes when Versace himself was tragically shot and killed on the front steps in 1997.
Unfortunately, the story of its revival has been much less heralded, as the villa has been attempting to start a new chapter for over a decade.
After Versace’s death, Casa Casuarina, the actual name of the property, sat vacant until 2000, when the Versace family relinquished ownership to a tech mogul for $19 million. The plan was to convert the private residence, which had once entertained the likes of Madonna, Elton John and other bold faced celebrities, to a boutique hotel. But it was always sought more as a relic to a fashion icon than a top tier hospitality destination, and after many years of under performing it was put back on the market.
After a spirited auction the property was awarded to VM South Beach LLC, operated by the Nakash family.
Simply named The Villa by Barton G, their goal has been to finally break away from the property’s sordid history, and while always honoring the memory of the legend who once lived there, getting back to what matters most – the guest experience.
Hoping to keep with the boutique theme, the new owners have partnered up with the culinary visionaries at Barton G Restaurant Group, who enlisted the help of Chef Scott Linquist to create a sophisticated menu that is both global and accessible.
While the venue will be open to the public, the new owners hope to maintain an air of exclusivity through the reservation process. A policy which is unapologetically designed to ensure the property is not overrun by curious tourists looking for a photo opp.
Instead the new owners hope to re-focus the entire operation back to the quality of the product and elegance of the space, shifting away from the cheap draw of tragedy and offering something special to those needing an escape from the hustle of South Beach.
The menu itself is an amalgam of local and worldly ingredients, intended to draw a truly international clientele and expose them to a mix of local and exotic dishes. Offerings range from fresh seafood to Italian antipasti to French Poulet Rouge, all abiding to the highest standards of freshness and seasonality.
Dining is offered on the front patio in addition to the main dining room, which is Moroccan themed and hand tiled with mosaic rocks from floor to ceiling. Decorated in plush fabrics and pillows, the space is topped off with a veranda that overlooks the famous 24 karat gold pool.
Additionally there are three distinct bar and lounge spaces throughout the Villa, including a cigar lounge styled with hand carved wood and a picturesque rooftop bar overlooking the turquoise blue ocean across the street. Here guests are welcome to lounge during the day or take in one of the breathtaking sunsets in the evening.
Despite its tragic and troubled history, there remains a spirit of elegance and style throughout the rooms of the Versace Mansion. One cannot help but be transported to a place of European mystery and extravagance while exploring the hidden rooms and admiring the hand painted ceilings. With any luck, the current re-imagining of the Versace Mansion will open the doors to a new era of excellence of which Gianni himself would have been proud.