Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Clemenza’s in Fort Walton Beach

We have friends we have known for a long time who live only an hour away, and while we don’t get together as often as we would like to, we manage about once a month. We try to find places “in between” which there really aren’t very many, but our friends mentioned, if we wouldn’t mind the drive, that they had found a new restaurant they were enjoying and they thought we would, too, Clemenza’s in Fort Walton Beach.

We read the reviews on UrbanSpoon, which I am beginning to think is a big mistake. Some just seem like sour grapes, some seem over the top without being specific, and some seem like hate mail – we pretty much disregard all those. So while a lot of people really enjoyed Clemenza’s, others complained about problems with service, and problems with tasteless food.

Our experience was very different.

For once, we arrived before our friends, and that is not that easy to do. We were seated, and while we were waiting, I had a glass of wine, just a glass of the house Chianti, which was OK, but a little sweet for my taste. AdventureMan asked me how it was, and I said “OK.”

A gentleman at the table next to us asked me how my wine was, and I said “It’s OK. It’s not bad” and he asked what I had ordered. I told him the house Chianti, and repeated that it was OK, did he want to smell it? (I can always tell a lot just from sniffing, and I only bother tasting if it smells really good.) He thanked me and said ‘no.’

Minutes later, AdventureMan said “I think that might have been the owner.”

“Oh no!” I said, but it made sense that it might have been. Mere seconds later, he appeared at the table with a new glass of wine and asked me to taste it. Heaven. A very nice red; he called it the upgrade, and it was truly an upgrade. I felt embarrassed, but also delighted at that kind of attention to detail.

AdventureMan asked one waitress if she had tried the restaurant’s Red Beans and Rice on the blackboard specials, and she laughed and said ‘no’ but she could assure us they were really good because the cook was her stepfather, and he served the best red beans and rice at home and she was sure we would be delighted if we ordered them.

This was all starting off pretty good!

My favorite pasta, so simple but I just adore it, Aglio Oglio was not on the menu, but I asked the waitress if the chef could do it, and off she went to ask, coming back with a big grin and telling me he would be glad to.

Better and better.

Our friends arrived, conversation was lively, the restaurant was almost full, and delicious looking dishes were arriving at other tables. We placed our orders, and told her there was no hurry, and there really isn’t. As much as we like good food, we meet up to enjoy one another’s company, and good food is just icing on the cake.

Oh, What icing.

We shared appetizers, an Caponata and Calimari Fritti. YUMMMMM. The Caponata was perfect, and the toast was a little garlicky and well toasted, so the caponata didn’t make it soggy. The Calimari were light and melted in your mouth. Great start.

Side salad:

In a short time our main courses arrived. My Aglio Oglio (garlic and oil) was perfect. A little spicy, as I had asked, and a perfect size for lunch, just enough, not too much, just right. Everyone was happy with their entrees.

Clemenza’s Carbonara:

Pizza Margherita (look at that wealth of fresh basil and that thin crust, baked in a wood-burning oven 🙂 :

When the food and conversation is this good (and my upgrade Chianti) you just don’t want to stop. We split desserts, Tiramisu and Mama’s Custard Pie, both excellent choices:

We lingered over coffee, and no one was shooing us out. It was a superb experience overall, delicious, tasty food, attentive service without being intrusive, just a great overall experience. We were impressed. We look forward to meeting up here again. 🙂

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July 17, 2011 - Posted by | Cooking, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Florida, Food, Italy | ,

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