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.
This week my culinary tour had me venturing into historic Old Marco, located on the north end of the island. There I met with Old Marco Pub owner Susan Ackerson. Susan gave me the lowdown on the nearly 20-year-old restaurant and introduced me to the two chefs who prepare all the delicious entrées.
Head chef Faustino (nicknamed Tino) has worked for the Ackerson family since the restaurant’s inception 18 years ago. Surprisingly, he began his career at the Old Marco Pub as a dishwasher. Over the years he worked his way up through the ranks, learning the ins and outs of cooking. Now, he’s the guy in charge.
“I come in here and I started working as the dishwasher,” he said.
Working alongside Tino is his partner in crime, Chef Rich. Rich began working at the Old Marco Pub nine years ago. He, like Tino, learned the trades of the kitchen by watching and later doing.
“My mother was in the restaurant business,” Rich said. “I started off as a busboy and moved my way up, moved my way up. I learned from a bunch of different chefs all the recipes.”
Chefs Tino and Rich have been working side by side for so long, they’re now able to anticipate what the other might need to complete a dish. During the season, when the restaurant is at capacity, they have each other’s back.
“We’ve been together for so long that when one guy starts the other knows exactly how to finish,” Rich said.
The chefs welcomed me into their kitchen and prepared not one, not two, but THREE dishes for me to taste. A food coma was imminent. There’s something intriguing about watching someone make food in front of you and then later eating it. Especially when you’re getting to know the people preparing it. It adds a layer of warmth and friendliness to the meal.
The first dish they for me prepared was, “Susan’s Favorite Crab Cakes.” Having just returned from a trip out to Baltimore, which is known for its crab, I was excited to see Marco Island’s take on the traditional meal.
The crab cakes were crispy on the outside and nice and tender on the inside, just the way I like them. The dish was served with a side of pasta tossed with fresh basil and diced tomatoes, which complemented the seafood well. Overall it was super tasty, but I still had two more dishes to try!
The next plate I sampled was their Chicken Sorrentino, which is topped with eggplant, spinach, garlic, and fresh mozzarella. The meal is slathered with a generous coating of vodka sauce and served with a side of pasta. The chicken was moist and flavorful and I’m always partial to a good vodka sauce.
Finally, I took a small helping of their “Chef’s Special Pub Salad.” I decided to leave the salad for last, as I knew I would be full after two big servings of delicious crab and chicken. The pub salad is a great meal if you want to eat healthy and feel full afterward. It’s full of leafy greens, roasted red peppers, toasted nuts, olives, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. For a protein, I had mine topped with grilled shrimp. Overall, everything tasted wonderful!
The restaurant prides itself on being family owned and operated. For Susan Ackerson the staff is like one big happy family.
“Our chefs have been with us for a very long time,” she said. “One since we opened our doors, and the other for nine years. All of our staff is like family to us.”
Check out the Old Marco Pub at 1105 Bald Eagle Dr. For more info give them a call at 239-642-9700 or visit their website www.oldmarcopub.com. They have live music every Friday and Saturday you won’t want to miss.
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.
The Old Marco Pub’s Crab Cake Recipe
1 lb. jumbo crabmeat
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 oz. mayonnaise
4 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Half a lemon, squeezed
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven broiler to 450 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine crabmeat, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl beat together mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, and lemon juice. Combine with crabmeat mixture.
4. Form into patties (size is up to you!) and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
5. Broil for 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and crispy on the outside.
These crab cakes go great with a side of pasta tossed with fresh-diced tomatoes and basil.