The year was 1992. Professional tennis player Yury Bettoni had left Ethiopia, where he was born, to train in the U.S. when he visited Miami for his first American vacation. Bettoni fell under the city’s spell and eventually moved here with his mother in 2012. They chose the quiet, residential South of Fifth (SoFi) neighborhood, where Bettoni still lives. “It has a peaceful, special energy and a rich Art Deco history in its two- and three-story buildings,” he says. The athlete and coach, who has appeared in Ballers and is a business partner in the high-end Italian kitchen brand Italkraft, has a passion for fine design, so naturally he feels at home in this architecturally striking neighborhood. In fact, he says he can’t imagine living anywhere else.
When Bettoni isn’t subsisting on protein bars, he heads to the SoFi institution Big Pink. The bright, retro venue is decidedly not for calorie counters, and while the hot spot is open all day, it’s best known for breakfast. Signature dishes include the Nutella waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, and the indulgent Giant Big Pink pancakes, which you can even order with crushed Oreos. “It was my mom’s breakfast place of choice,” Bettoni says. “If at times she wouldn’t answer her phone, I knew I could find her there, with her coffee and croissant.” 157 Collins Ave., 305.531.0888
“South Pointe Park is the place where I do some of my physical training, and it’s where I was inspired to create my branded Y System training regimen,” Bettoni recalls. “No wonder everyone in Miami Beach loves to work out at the park—those green areas are like an oasis for a healthy lifestyle. The view of Fisher Island across the canal is just incredible, especially when the ships glide by.” Bettoni raves about the new water features at the entrance of the park: Named for beloved local policeman Mark N. Overton, the lowrise reflective fountains pulsate with pink and purple lights at night. “They lend the park a very particular architectural look,” Bettoni says. “I love the unique, sharp design, the infinity pool concept, and the refreshing feel of the water overlapping the borders.” 1 Washington Ave.
Bettoni appreciates SoFi’s variety of great restaurants, from the world-famous Joe’s Stone Crab to Cibo Wine Bar, but for years his Friday night ritual with family and business partners has been dinner at Santorini by Georgios. The Colossal King Prawns are a favorite, and the venue offers a range of Greek delicacies, like spanakopita (spinach pie) baked to order and saganaki (Greek cheese served in a sizzling skillet). “The owners do an incredible job,” he says, “and their menu makes everyone feel loved and at home.”101 Ocean Dr., 305.672.6624
Bettoni is Italian, so he was immediately intrigued when his friends Alessandro Buono and Claudio Console opened the Sicilian pastry shop Sciuri, just north of Fifth Street. Bettoni sees the upscale café as evidence that SoFi’s exclusive vibe is spreading north. It’s a great place for a slice of almond cake and a cappuccino (they now serve pizza and pasta as well). And, Bettoni says, “the cannoli are to die for.” 541 Jefferson Ave., 786.216.7056
—by Drew Limsky