Friday, February 22, 2019

A Food Fantasia at Sale e Pepe




“It deserves five WOWS! It’s that good!” exclaimed my dining partner as he bit into a puffy mound of ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossom.

He’s not usually a very effusive foodie but this Saturday evening at Sale e Pepe, he emitted more “oooohs” than in previous visits. His dinner was a tenderly baked Georges Bank halibut atop “schiacciata” potato, salsify chanterelle cream and lemongrass basil emulsion.

I ordered a luxurious mound of saffron pappardelle with San Marzano beef ragu infused with sage and parmigiana spuma. These were perfect dishes for a cool January evening. Our guest preferred the Cacio e Pepe ravioli stuffed full of pecorino and wild pepper and topped with slivers of Florida calamari, crispy guanciale and Amalfi lemon brodo — a mélange of tasty bites.

We clinked our glasses of Taittinger and toasted to the special occasion and to the culinary artistry of the dishes before us. The sort of dish where Chef Antonio Minichiello says trust me, I know what I’m doing – and you trust him, because you should. You’re not quite sure how the ingredients will play until that first bite and you’re oh so glad you did!

It’s no secret that Marco Beach Ocean Resort’s marquee restaurant is the crown jewel in Marco Island’s dining scene. Sale e Pepe is a bastion of high-end Italian cuisine with each dish lovingly crafted; it looks beautiful, tastes delicious and is creatively presented to enhance your overall dining experience.

There is a good mix of dishes on the menu from the salads, house-made pasta, fresh catch of the day from local fishermen, chef’s signature dishes, and prime beef.

When you walk in, someone is there to greet you in a very personable way. The service was attentive; intimate even, without crossing the boundary into overkill. By the end of the meal, we felt like we had made friends with members of the staff, such as Floor Captain Damir Frljak and Restaurant Manager Ivan Borkovic. Both added that personal connection to the dining experience.

While it was high season, we didn’t feel rushed. All tables were full (and reservations are recommended), yet the space never felt cramped. The general ambiance was intimate, cozy and conversation-friendly.

The finale to our meal came with three artfully created delicious desserts. First, a ring of dark chocolate gives the Ricotta e Pera an otherworldly appearance, but its hazelnut crust brings it back to its comforting, earthly roots. The Delizia Limone (lemon sponge cake) with Amalfi lemon cream is a sublime cloud, and the chocolate ganache with hazelnut crust is light and rich like edible silk.

Sale e Pepe is a dining experience to celebrate all types of special moments. For us, it was memorable and was worth the time and investment.  Food was delicious, service was very gracious and we had a lot of fun!

Sale e Pepe is located at Marco Beach Ocean Resort, 480 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island. For more information visit sale-e-pepe.com.

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