“Like Velcro, I put people together,” says General Manager and Co-founder of Sails Restaurant Velko Pavicevic. It’s not just an easy way to remember his name; it’s a philosophy for running a successful restaurant. Velko puts together a top-notch staff so other people can come together to relax, laugh, make memories and build relationships—all over a first-rate meal.
Sails is a European dining dream located on premium real estate at the corner of Naples Fifth Avenue and Third Street South. While offering the finest of everything, Sails manages to be genuinely friendly. It’s an attribute of the owner; Velko considers restaurant patrons his personal, honored guests.
The experience runs deeper than the food (although, spoiler alert – it’s delicious!). Upon entering, guests are greeted by an elegant, marble bar, sculpted to resemble a ship and built from a single, grand slab that Velko hand-picked from a mountainside in Greece. Everything is sleek. Light fixtures are made from hand-spun brass, silver and copper, and European artisans were flown in to craft the crown molding. Magnificent bottles of wine are elegantly encased, some attired in Italian leather. Master musician Otto Avalos graces Sails’ guests with melodious sounds from the violin, piano, saxophone and several other instruments.
At each table sits white linens, beautiful glassware and a handcrafted sailboat lantern. The leather seats are comfy, and booths are lined with pillows. Tantalizing aromas waft from the kitchen, hinting at what is to come.
Alongside Velko, creating the everyday magic of Sails, is his business partner and wife, Corinne Ryan, along with Chef de Cuisine Darren Veilleux and a group of passionate and talented staff—who compete with hundreds of international applicants desiring to work at Sails.
Growing up in Serbia, the “land of hospitality,” and spending his summers cooking with his grandmother in Montenegro, shaped Velko’s vision. He was an exchange student at Naples High School in 1997, then graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University and refined his hospitality skills while working at The Ritz-Carlton.
In 2014, Velko met his future wife after founding multinational logistics company Global Link, LLC. The two shared a passion for entrepreneurship and international collaborations, leading them to found Sails in December 2017.
The inspiration for the restaurant’s name was two-fold: Corinne grew up in the internationally recognized harbor city of Sydney, Australia, and Velko spent many days as a young child observing the sailboats in harbors east of Italy, imagining the next spot each would travel. A sail is the historic tool of humanity that harnessed the wind to the New World.
Additionally, Saint Nicholas, protector of the sailors, is the patron saint for the Pavicevic family and is celebrated annually on the festive Serbian holiday of Slava. Velko tries to replicate the spirit of this grand holiday at Sails.
“We’re celebrating Slava every day, so I feel like I’m never working!” he says.
Velko’s grandma started him in the kitchen young. He picked up cooking skills along with his grandma’s model of hospitality and work ethic. At age five, he made his first in-house mayonnaise; just one year later, he was crafting homemade crepes. In all his business ventures, he remembers his grandmother’s mantra: “Anytime you stand still, bad things occupy your mind. When you’re working, God loves you.”
While each person who enters Sails is revered as royalty, guests may reserve an exclusive experience in the private dining room. Accommodating up to 12 guests, this wine-walled former bank vault has been transformed into something truly unique and has served many celebrities, political figures and CEOs from around the globe.
As one of the world’s top food brokers, Corrine serves as director of operations for Sails and specializes in providing a gourmet experience.
“Corinne is the secret,” says Velko, noting she frequently flies to New Zealand to source the finest ingredients — from heavenly Greek, organic olive oil to the impressive offerings iced in the fresh seafood case, including King Prawns as big as your hand and hard-to-get Moreton Bay Bugs (Australian lobster).
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the astonishing wine selection at Sails. At the time of our dining, the restaurant offered 486 different labels of wine; Velko plans to increase that number to 1,000 by the end of 2020. Sails also houses several private collection bottles of liquor — kept under lock and key — including Macallan M, a single malt scotch whisky created during World War II, and Louis XIII de Remy Martin, a century-old champagne cognac from France. Martinis are served with hand-chiseled ice cubes in crystal glasses from the collection of Velko’s grandmother.
In addition to the founders, Chef de Cuisine Darren Veilleux, is crucial to Sails’ success. Veilleux’s creativity and expert techniques, highlighted on Sails’ custom wood-burning grill, delight diners’ palates and keep them craving more. As with all other aspects of the restaurant, only the highest quality meats are prepared for guests. Sails is the only restaurant in the region offering grass-fed, prime Australian beef with the extraordinary marbling score of 9-plus.
Even in a time of a global pandemic, the staff at Sails exudes positivity. Velko only sees opportunities (stay tuned—he plans to open two more restaurants soon).
“We’re so focused on where we are heading, that everything else is just speed bumps,” he says.
- Crab & Avocado: Enjoy a truly unique starter with Sails’ crab-stuffed avocado. This rich flavor profile is complimented with Beluga Gold Créme Fraiche, pepper jam and a tangy mango purée.
- Slow Cooked Pork Belly: With roots in Denmark, the slow cooked pork belly is brined for 36 hours. Lean, tender hunks of meat are coated in a delicious burnt orange glaze, accompanied by slow-roasted pineapples, radishes and fennel. This dish pairs wonderfully with a dry, white Riesling wine from France.
- Black Truffle Agnolotti: This eye-catching dish features a rare whey foam that is strangely reminiscent of the sea foam created by crashing waves. The Agnolotti noodles are stuffed with house-made ricotta cheese, cooked with a hint of sherry, and topped with Maitake mushrooms and black truffle shavings.
- Peppered Tuna Rossini: This Hawaiian tuna dish is as beautiful as it is delicious. Slabs of juicy tuna are coated in a seared foie gras and drizzled with a black truffle reduction sauce. The plate is finished with charcoal-roasted onions for a pop of extra flavor.
- Wood-Grilled Mediterranean Whole Fish: Take a quick trip to Greece with this Mediterranean platter featuring light, flaky Branzino. This scrumptious sea bass is paired with a provencal vinaigrette and roasted vegetables including zucchini, peppers, green beans and squash.\
- Montenegro: Highlighting the culture of Montenegro that inspired Sails, this dessert can best be described as simply delicious. The base of the dish is two scoops of Greek yogurt made entirely from goat milk. This creamy bite is topped with organic walnuts and served swimming in a pool of Montenegro honey.