Photo credit to DeRomo’s.
By day, DeRomo’s Gourmet Market is bustling with shoppers gathering fresh meats, cheeses, wines, deli and bakery items and pantry goods – imported and inspired from around the globe. At night, the lights come up on the patio where tables line the walkways and the hearty laughter of good times mingles with cascading water.
Since opening in October as the much- anticipated anchor for the revitalized Promenade at Bonita Bay, DeRomo’s has enjoyed a steady stream of guests. “We’re the most unique concept in Southwest Florida,” says DeRomo’s founder and visionary Francis J. Cuomo, who grew up near New York’s “Little Italy” and boasts 37 years in the restaurant, catering and marketplace business. “We have house-made mozzarella, house- made sausage and all of our family recipes. Everything is baked fresh.
I put a year and three months of design and creativity into this place.” At Cuomo’s invitation, we headed out for some hearty Italian cooking on the restaurant side of the 18,000-square-foot operation. It seats 300, with private dining for parties of up to 28 and plenty of open-air dining, including our table on the front patio by the beautiful water feature. There are even comfy couches for lingering with a glass of wine and good company.
The restaurant feeds off of the marketplace, sourcing aged meats from the butcher shop and fresh catches from the seafood counter. The same aged cheese wheels customers see in the marketplace are saved for use in the restaurant’s tasty dishes, and some of the restaurant’s salads are available at the prepared foods counter of the marketplace. “The deli feeds us, and we feed the deli,” says our waiter, Frank. He pours out glasses of Rubio Toscana as he skillfully recites the nightly specials – Branzino, Osso Buco and Lobster Diablo – all of which make our mouths start to water.
We decide to start the evening with a true taste of marketplace offerings, the Charcuterie platter, featuring a tasty selection of cured meats, salamis, cheeses and relish tray items, including sun dried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, marinated artichokes and assorted olives like Green Castelvetrano and Kalamata in Olio. Executive Chef Roberto Cardenas Rimarow says he combines the traditional kitchen with innovation to make Old World foods upscale. Cuomo’s goal is simple: “To make sure everybody is happy when they leave.”
01. CARPACCIO DI MANZO
For this traditional Italian appetizer, thin slices of cured, raw beef are served with arugula, sliced portobello and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from the DeRomo’s marketplace. This tasty meat tray is “cooked” with a squeeze of fresh lemon at the table, blending with the fl avor of extra virgin olive oil.
02. CLASSIC CAESAR & ZUPPA
Don’t miss the soup and salad course at DeRomo’s. Try the classic Caesar with house-made dressing and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese paired with the Zuppa di Lentichhie, a savory lentil soup full of seasonings with onions, celery, carrots and more of that wonderful Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
03. RAVIOLI FORMAGGIO
Pasta at DeRomo’s is handcrafted at the in-house pasta factory. For this creamy dish, house-made jumbo ravioli is filled with ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses in a lick-the-dish-clean Rosso Aurora sauce. A giant Nona’s Meatball takes center stage with this presentation, bringing old-fashioned Italian comfort food to the table.
04. VITELLO SCHANTINELLA
This dish is both eye-catching and mouthwatering with its orchid garnish. Created by Cuomo in 1998, the Vitello Schantinella was heralded “Best Dish of the Year” by the New York Times, combining veal medallions, sea scallops and jumbo shrimp in a basil golden sherry cream sauce with roasted shallots. Seafood enthusiasts also will like DeRomo’s version of Branzino, European sea bass swimming in a tasty lemon caper piccata sauce.
05. OSSO BUCO
This traditional dish stars tender veal shank, weighing 16 ounces prior to slow roasting for eight hours. It’s served over a bed of saffron risotto with a sprig of rosemary to garnish. Hearty tomato sauce and natural juices give this dish plenty of flavors.
Save room for a made-from-scratch dessert. The Napoleon is a rare treasure on the dessert menu, layering puff pastry with Chantilly and pastry creams and dusted in powdered sugar. The pastry gives a crunch while the sweetness of the cream melts in your mouth. Chocolate lovers should try the Profiteroles, puff pastries filled with Chantilly cream, drizzled with decadent chocolate, sprinkled with almonds and topped with whipped cream.