Emeril’s Coastal Italian
When renowned chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse selected Miramar Beach and the Sandestin community for his flagship Florida restaurant, it surely was a nod to the growth, level of sophistication, and cosmopolitan nature of the area. The synergy between the local population – people who have chosen the northern Gulf Coast as their permanent home – and the visitors who come again and again from cities all over the country and the world, provides a solid base and an ever-changing new clientele resulting in a vibe few places can replicate. The restaurant has matured and evolved over the nearly three years it has been in operation and has found its niche as Emeril’s Coastal Italian, a casual, contemporary, warm and welcoming spot that combines the rich and diverse tradition of Italian cuisine with the bountiful variety of fresh Gulf seafood and abundant local produce.
Chef de Cuisine Frank Szymanski, who grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and studied marine biology until his passion for food led him to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University, spent five years with the Emeril Lagasse Restaurant Group before pursuing other opportunities along the Gulf Coast. He rejoined the Emeril family at Emeril’s Coastal Italian as sous chef before assuming his current position. “The restaurant has evolved,” Szymanski says. “We wanted to forge our own identity, to build our own brand, and we have had the organizational support we need to do just that. We offer a chef’s tasting menu every night with multiple courses, lots of fresh local seafood, one of our signature house-made pastas, a great dessert, and thoughtful wine pairings for every course.” Additionally, the kitchen turns out as many as eight to ten specials every night, allowing the kitchen staff to select the freshest ingredients and get creative with their preparation.
While there is a strong focus on seafood, the menu does not neglect the meat lover – there is always at least one steak preparation, complete with house-made Worcestershire sauce, and the Tuscan roasted chicken is a perennial favorite, with its incredibly crisp flavorful skin and tender, juicy meat. “My favorite menu item, hands down, is the Fettucini Nero, made in our kitchen with squid ink, and served lightly sauced with fresh crabmeat and toasted almonds. Unbelievable!” Desserts are a major draw at Emeril’s. Far and away, the favorite is the amazingly light and intensely flavorful Olive Oil Cake, with its embellishments of salted caramel, creamy mascarpone, and Marcona almonds, but there are takers for all the others, such as the Limoncello and Blueberry Cheesecake, the Key Lime Icebox Pie, and Emeril’s Original Banana Cream Pie. For simpler tastes, there are always cookies and milk, and the cotton candy machine in the kitchen can provide kids with a fancy sweet treat.
General Manager Annie Erickson wears two hats at Emeril’s Coastal Italian – in addition to GM, she is also the sommelier and in charge of the cocktail program. Multiple roles are not new to Erickson; as an acting major she was accustomed to playing many parts, and as an aspiring actor, she learned a lot about tending bar and waiting tables. She has earned her Court of Master Sommelier Level I Certification and continues to expand her wine expertise at every opportunity. She works closely with Chef Szymanski to develop the tasting menus and to create just the right pairings. “I love that we are given the tools to express a lot of creativity in our work,” she says. “We have a lot of fun doing it, too.” Her favorite meal begins with Miss Hilda’s Favish, a modern rendition of a classic Portuguese fava bean stew, prepared here with charred octopus and gigante beans followed by the Bone-in Kurobuta Pork Milanese and served with eggplant caponata, arugula, and lemon. “It’s simply perfection,” she says, “particularly when followed by the Olive Oil Cake.”
Emeril’s Coastal Italian is casual, warm, and welcoming. Its design, with its earthy mix of textures and colors, sets a casual, coastal feel with a touch of elegance, echoing the tone of the menu, which is at once accessible and elegant. Families are always welcome. There are private rooms and spaces available for private parties and large celebrations. The restaurant is open seven days a week, for lunch, dinner, and happy hour.
EMERIL’S COASTAL ITALIAN
435 Grand Boulevard
Miramar Beach FL 32550
Images Courtesy of Emeril’s Coastal Italian