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Leo’s Impact at Inter Miami: The Messi Effect on Miami Locals

Lionel Messi’s preferred dining spot in Miami, Prima Pasta, has become a local favorite, thanks to his frequent visits. These visits have led to memorable moments that have captured global attention.

Prima Pasta, located in Miami Beach, boasts an ambiance of disco music and dimmed red lights. Messi’s first visit to the restaurant dates back over a decade, but it was his most recent stop on July 13 of last year that created one of his most memorable viral moments since arriving in America.

According to a report by The Athletic, Prima Pasta was already a popular spot among locals in Miami, but it has since gained recognition as Messi’s go-to restaurant in the city.
Inter Miami
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi waves to photographers as he arrives ahead of a friendly soccer match against Newell's Old Boys, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) (AP)
Additionally, another local, a barber, experienced a positive turn of events after crossing paths with Messi. Meanwhile, a muralist who travels the world found inspiration in Messi’s World Cup triumph, leading to the creation of a widely acclaimed piece of art, the report added.

Messi’s July visit to Prima Pasta captured global attention, with patrons making an effort to maintain a sense of normalcy as Messi and his family dined nearby. “Messi casually walked in through the front door,” Angelo Acción, 30, a bartender who was working that night, told The Athletic. “At first, the customers who were here didn’t realize that he had walked in. Once they saw him, a lot of the customers waited out back for him.”

Cea, aged 57 and the proprietor of Prima Pasta, revealed that he possesses guitars autographed by notable musicians such as Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton, and René Pérez, also known as Residente.

Additionally, Cea has a guitar signed by the late Gustavo Cerati, a revered rock star from Argentina who frequented Prima Pasta before his passing in 2014. Having developed a friendship with the Messi family, Cea also owns a Gibson guitar signed by Inter Miami’s No. 10, the report noted.

“Leo is always super cool,” Cea told The Athletic, adding, “This was his third visit, but his family has been coming for the last 12 years. He’s always so relaxed, always smiling. Never a problem. Just a very cool person.”

Cea noted that the agnolotti Rosso is Messi’s favorite dish, a stuffed pasta with ricotta cheese and spinach in pink sauce.
The self-made barber
Luis Andrés Rivera, also known as El Bori Barber on social media, is a Puerto Rican entrepreneur residing in Miami. His life took a turn last summer when he became Messi’s personal barber.

Rivera’s Destiny Barber Studio, situated in Wynwood, boasts a sleek and contemporary design, featuring three black leather barber chairs and a meticulously selected playlist of salsa music to enhance the ambiance. Referring to the confidentiality agreement he signed with Messi’s team, Rivera remains tight-lipped about his experiences.

Since sharing a photo of himself with Messi on Instagram last August, Rivera has received numerous media requests, all of which he has had to decline. He proudly displays the WhatsApp messages exchanged with Messi but quickly hides his phone, stating that he can discuss anything except that topic.

A native of the coastal city of Patillas in southeast Puerto Rico, Rivera, aged 29, hails from a beach town that stands in the city of San Juan.

“Miami is my life, bro,” says Rivera. “I came here with a humble mindset but with big plans. Miami shows you that anything is possible in life. There are no limits in Miami. I didn’t know any of my famous customers when I came here. I found them here. If you’re disciplined and you work hard here, believe in yourself … Miami is everything.”
The world-traveling muralist
Similar to Rivera, Maximiliano Bagnasco’s encounter with Messi marked a memorable moment in the summer of 2023. Bagnasco, a 42-year-old artist from Argentina, is renowned for creating the most prominent Messi mural in South Florida.

One of the first celebrities to take notice of Bagnasco’s Messi mural was David Beckham, co-owner of Inter Miami. The former Manchester United star made headlines himself when he climbed into Bagnasco’s crane for a viral Messi moment.

Bagnasco has painted numerous murals of Messi and Maradona worldwide. The concept for the Wynwood mural stemmed from a collaboration between Bagnasco and the building’s owner, Gustavo Miculitzki, a 67-year-old Argentine and prominent Miami developer associated with Block Capital Group.

“It was Gustavo’s idea,” Bragnasco told The Athletic, adding “He wanted it to read ‘Welcome to Miami.’ We added ‘Wynwood.’ Gustavo suggested that Messi be smiling. I had pitched a different design but we went with this one. It was about welcoming Messi and visualizing him with Inter Miami. It’s Messi as a world champion. That’s the Messi that we have now and the Messi that everyone loves.”

Messi sightings are becoming increasingly common in Miami, whether he’s spotted at a local coffee shop, sipping maté, or attending a birthday celebration for a friend of his eldest son Thiago, who is a member of Inter Miami’s U-12 academy team.

“It’s been so impressive,” Miculitzki said, adding, “We’ve lived here now for more than 20 years. We know what Leo means and how he moves people — football fans and otherwise. That’s been proven. Messi’s reach is worldwide. It’s incredible. You have to live it to really understand it.”

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