By: Hannah Neville

When seeking out the tastiest Italian restaurant options in the area, the most authentic can be found at Clemenza’s located in Uptown Station in Fort Walton Beach. This year’s recipient of the BEST Locally Owned Restaurant and the BEST Restaurant in Okaloosa County by Emerald Coast Magazine, Clemenza’s has won over the hearts and taste buds of locals and visitors alike.

Dom, the owner of Clemenza’s, mentioned that all of the management are former military, which adds a little bit of local flavor and a lot of pride to the restaurant.

For roughly the past five years, Clemenza’s has been hosting a variety of cooking classes for individuals to come learn, cook, and taste different recipes, each one depending on the theme of the night. Clemenza’s also has a room that can be sectioned off for private dinner parties and such. Inside the restaurant you will find a friendly, classy atmosphere that is very inviting and aromatic. The walls are multi-colored and decorated with military pictures, uniforms, and awards.

When it came to ordering our food, my fiance, Chase, and I must have looked over the menu a half-dozen times because there was so much to choose from and so many dishes that sounded delicious! To add to the selection, there was also a chalkboard menu displayed on the back wall featuring the chef’s daily specials. After taking some advice from Dom, we finally settled on our order. For appetizers, we decided to get the potato leek soup and the house crafted burrata caprese salad. The potato and leek soup was thick and creamy with a rich taste and was perfectly topped with freshly ground black pepper. The burrata caprese salad featured arugula paired with sweet Italian peppers, tomatoes, and fresh burrata all drizzled in a balsamic glaze. Both appetizers were fresh and full of flavor. The Italian sweet peppers added a slight zing to the caprese, an addition which we absolutely loved.

Burrata Caprese Salad
Potato Leek Soup

Along with our appetizers, Chase and I also ordered some cocktails. Chase prefers whiskey, so he was recommended the old fashioned, a drink which featured a smoked maple whiskey that had a hint of citrus to it, and he absolutely loved how well the flavors went together. I, on the other hand, prefer fruity drinks, so I was suggested Clemenza’s house martini. The martini contained vodka, limoncello, and raspberry coulis which made for a very light, fruity, and refreshing drink.

Clemenza’s House Martini and Old Fashioned

Before we knew it, our entrees were in front of us. The service was quick and the wait staff was very friendly and attentive. My entree was a house special, the traditional eggplant parmesan with marinara. I was expecting a really heavy entree but it was surprisingly light, something which I enjoyed. The marinara was creamy and paired perfectly with the crispy eggplant. The dish was topped with shallots, freshly grated parmesan, ground black pepper, and parsley making it more herbaceous. Chase selected the pan-seared grouper topped with a lemon-butter caper sauce along with a side of braised spinach and roasted potatoes. The grouper was excellent and the sauce complimented the fish as well as the spinach and potatoes. Both entrees exceeded our expectations and are highly recommended.

Pan Seared Grouper
Traditional Eggplant Parmesan

By the time we finished our entrees, Chase and I were stuffed… but of course, as the the saying always goes, “leave room for dessert.” So, after much thought, we decided on ordering the ricotta pumpkin cheesecake and limoncello mascarpone cake with a raspberry puree on the side. Words cannot even describe how delicious both of these desserts were, but the ricotta pumpkin cheesecake was definitely one of the best cheesecakes we ever had. Both desserts were light and full of flavor, and are something that we will definitely be looking forward to ordering again. We also decided to finish off the night by splitting a house made vanilla cappuccino.

Limoncello Mascarpone Cake
Ricotta Pumpkin Cheesecake
Vanilla Cappuccino

To conclude, our experience with Clemenza’s food, atmosphere, and wait staff was fantastic. The chef’s specials were recommended and did not disappoint. Clemenza’s also has two other locations, each specializing in something different. Fat Clemenza’s and Mama Clemenza’s are both found in Miramar Beach. We will definitely be back and look forward to trying the other locations soon.

Clemenza’s is located at 75 Eglin Parkway, Suite 126 in Fort Walton Beach, FL 32591. For more information visit their website, or call (850)-243-0707. Food lovers visit Clemenza’s full profile with menus, photos, maps and more at GulfCoastRestaurants.com.

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