When your mother invites you to lunch at Emeril’s Coastal Italian, you accept. And after eating there, I’d go so far as to say that when your mother invites you to lunch at Emeril’s Coastal Italian that you do a couple backflips, a cartwheel and a toe touch or whatever other exuberant physical expression of “YES”, you can muster up. Because it’s so flippin’ good, folks. SO good.
I’m going to take a step back though and preface this review with two things you need to know about me, the reviewer. To start, I don’t really dig Italian food all that much. Please don’t hate me for uttering those words. But with my food allergies, Italian food has lost most of it’s luster. I don’t eat wheat (i.e. gluten), and exceptionally good Italian food requires gluten. All the gluten. So, suffice it to say, I don’t eat much Italian because the stuff they’re trying to pass off as gluten-free Italian food is well… disappointing. To say the least. When I heard Emeril was putting in an Italian restaurant my initial reaction was “meh.” I like Emeril. He smiled at me once out on the dock at the marina, and when one of my friends stalked him at Publix he was kind enough to let her crazy-self see what was in his cart because if Emeril was buying it, it had to be good, right? So he seems cool. But still I was, “meh” about the restaurant.
Second of all, I am not really impressed with many restaurants. I don’t know what has created such a tough critic out of me recently, but whatever the reasons, here I am. Hyper-critical. Perhaps it comes from my brief stint at Cuvee in Destin. When you see such quality going onto the plates, it’s hard to accept anything less. Or maybe it’s what owning your own little restaurant/cafe does to you. Nonetheless, the list of places I deem worthy of glowing reviews is somewhat short.
But it’s suddenly a little longer after eating at Emeril’s Coastal Italian (ECI).
Most Italian restaurants have an old-world, heavy, dark decor thing going on. Not ECI. It’s light, bright and totally refreshing. Props to the decor team because it’s really a beautiful place. We were seated next to the kitchen, with is prime restaurant real estate, IMHO. They also had a kitchen bar area which would be a really fun place for a date night if you’re into dinner with a show. A cool, professional cooking show. There was also the actual bar, which had quite a crowd for lunch-time.
We started off with just iced teas to drink and an order of the Skillet Shrimp as well as a Mixed Greens Salad. The appetizer list is long and everything is enticing. The Fried Olives were seriously calling my name, but I figured they were breaded in something I couldn’t eat. But hindsight is telling me I should’ve asked. I for sure will next time. Both the salad and the shrimp were tasty. The salad dressing has one of my favorite ingredients – white balsamic vinegar. So warm. So mild. So tasty. And not something you see a lot of on restaurant menus. The shrimp were buttery and perfectly cooked. Tasted a lot like sweet little bites of lobster. Yeah, I know, right?! I’m only just getting started, folks.
We ordered the Parmesan Crusted Snapper and the Tuscan Steak for our main meal. This next sentence is not one I type without thinking it through. It’s a big thing to say, so I want to say it right. Emeril’s Coastal Italian cooked the best fish and the best steak I’ve ever had.
Boom. It’s out there, and there’s no going back.
I’ve had steak at Gibson’s in Chicago. At Fleming’s in Destin. At Ruth’s Chris in South Bend. At St. Elmos in Indianapolis. Sullivan’s. The list goes on and on. I’ve had some steak. And by far, the best flavor, most tender for the best price – Emeril’s. I’ll just leave it at that.
The snapper was unbelievably fresh and full of flavor too. I’d expect nothing less from a guy who owns a fishing boat and has probably been perfecting his fresh-caught snapper recipe for years. This fish was fabulous.
The side items are separate so we ordered a few to share. The Brussels Sprouts (bacon vinaigrette, anyone?!) and the Mushrooms Marsala. Mushrooms were tasty, but it’s sort of hard to screw up mushrooms in marsala wine. The real star here was the Brussels Sprouts. If my mother didn’t love me so much, I’d say there was a moment where she almost stabbed me with a fork so she could have the last sprout. I saw a look in her eye. But motherly love prevailed.
Because it was a holiday and we had zero schedule to stick to, we took our time letting the fantastic meal digest and ordered some coffees. I won’t hold it against her that she ordered decaf. (What’s the point?!) The coffee service is surprisingly charming. They serve it with little jars of cream and every kind of sweetener you could possibly want. 5 stars for presentation on the coffee. It’s the little things, you know?
The gelato case was right in front of us and well, YOLO! I went for the Peppermint Patti gelato and mama ordered up some Pistachio. They’re served in homemade waffle cones. (Or in a bowl for us gluten-free types.) 3 large scoops, and they didn’t disappoint. The Peppermint Patti flavor was just what you’d imagine. Heavy on the peppermint. Totally refreshing. And if you’re feeling wild, drop a few dollops into your coffee… you’ll thank me later. But the Pistachio was a total game changer. It was everything a pistachio flavored dessert should be – light but with just the right amount of that pistachio spiciness. No weird, fake, pistachio after-taste. Just so much deliciousness here. I regretted that I could only eat one of my scoops, because they were so, so perfect.
In summary, you absolutely must go to Emeril’s Coastal Italian. Even if you’ve had a nasty break-up with Italian food, like me. It’ll restore your faith in good Italian food in a beautiful, bright environment. I’d recommend Emeril’s as a great spot to take clients for lunch, a romantic date night at the kitchen bar, or how about coffee and gelato late one evening. Take your time. Make a it a real “thing.” You know, sit down, relax, don’t rush and just enjoy your friends/family over some amazing food.
My hot tips are as follows:
Make a reservation if you’re going during a prime time. Click HERE to do that or call 850-608-7040. (FYI, you won’t be seated until your whole party arrives.)
Check out the menu ahead of time, if you’re curious. Do that HERE.
The gelato comes in 3 huge scoops and you can mix and match the scoops. Great way to share this dessert and everyone gets a scoop of whatever flavor they prefer without over-ordering.
The dinners come with a small side salad on the plate which is really delicious. If we had know this ahead of time we wouldn’t have ordered the additional salad appetizer.
And last but not least, they sell gift cards. In case you want to send a gift to a client, really hungry relative or your favorite blogger (hint, hint), you can purchase those right HERE.
P.S. My opinions were 100% my own. This post wasn’t sponsored in any way.