The Coastal Breeze News is proud to present Chef’s Corner, a gastronomical column that offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at Marco Island’s favorite restaurants. Each month I visit a different local eatery to get the lowdown on signature dishes, recipes and the chefs who make it possible.
The Perez family knows a thing or two about the restaurant business here on Marco Island. Over the past 20 years they’ve opened a number of local eateries, all of which have offered islanders, visitors, and “foodies” alike, unique and delicious cuisines.
As a matter of fact, my first job was working for the Perez family. I was 15-years-old and desperate for a little spending cash. Though my tenure was short lived, the family has always remembered me. Whenever I run into them, they greet me with a smile and a warm hello. They’re an awesome crew who know more than a thing or two about good food. They are, without a doubt, my kind of people.
Arturo Perez, the family patriarch, is perhaps best known for his eponymous restaurant “Arturo’s,” which served islanders delicious Italian food for nearly two decades. Arturo’s daughter, Marisol is the owner of Ciao Bella’s Ristorante Italiano and his eldest son, Edgar owns Philly Grille, an American-style eatery.
Recently Arturo set off on his newest venture by taking over the Island Café, located at 918 N. Collier Blvd. His youngest son, Arturo Jr. (“Junior”) is currently working as the executive chef.
Junior, now 34-years-old, got his start in the restaurant business when he was just 13.
“I started there (at Arturo’s) as a dishwasher,” Junior said. “That was my first job.”
Throughout the years, he made his way around the restaurant, trying out various jobs. He worked as a busboy, a food runner, and eventually he, like his brother and father, found himself in the kitchen. According to the chef, cooking is in their blood.
Chef Junior says that he loves all types of food, but he’s best at preparing European, Italian, and Mexican dishes.
“You know what, I love everything,” he said. “I just feel that if you love food, it’s easy to cook.”
I met up with Junior, Arturo, and Arturo’s partner Diana at the Island Café. They showed me around the restaurant and even whipped up the delicious Shrimp and Scallop entrée, sautéed to perfection with white wine, chopped tomatoes, capers, almonds, and basil.
According to the trio, the Island Café has stuck to it’s European and continental roots. They’ve just added some of their own classic dishes. Diana says that their most popular menu items include the Rack of Lamb, Roasted Duck, and the Grouper Island Style, which is topped with blue crab and prepared with a lemon butter sauce.
Diana has worked with the family for a long time and knows them well.
“I say it all the time, I think this is what they were born to do,” she said. “It’s a talent that they all have.”
The Island Café is an awesome restaurant run by a wonderful family. They’ve provided their recipe for their delicious Key Lime Pie, which is a perfect summer treat.
The Island Café is currently running a special summer wine-pairing event. Participants receive a four-course meal with a different wine pairing at each course. A wine steward will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the wine.
For additional information call 239-394-7578. You can visit their website at www.theislandcafe.com. The Island Café is located at 918 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island.
Samantha Husted is a local writer, photographer, and avid food eater. She enjoys the simple things in life, like playing with dogs and eating burritos. Samantha has worked as a staff writer for the Coastal Breeze News for over two years.