By Wayne Koss
Casa Calabria is not only one of the finest overall Italian restaurants in South Florida and beyond. It is arguably one of the best entertainment venues in its genre as well. Not billed as a dinner club, yet for customers, it is that. Fine, wonderful, marvelous and a whole lot more.
The venue is located directly on the beach along the beautiful Galt Ocean Mile in the Ocean Manor Beach Resort that is steeped in history with major celebrity stays and visits. From Florida’s biggest star ever--Burt Reynolds weekend stay last year that was captured in worldwide media during the Florida Music Awards Hall of Fame show kick-off event alongside Grammy-winning saxophonist Ed Calle, rock n' roll legend Rick Derringer, among other notables that took the stage that special weekend.
Johnny Carson had his own room at the OM during his Tonight Show era when he ruled the night and numerous athletes have frequented the venue over the years—especially during the current owner's era. Its part of the intrigue for patrons, yet Casa Calabria has a cornucopia of regular ingredients that keep the locals coming back nightly in its own right.
Present owner Frank Talerico took over ownership of the property in 2004 and gave it a needed refurbishing to bring it back to its early day allures—however that's another full story. Highly notable, Mr. Talerico is a man of vision and great articulation for bringing his substantive ideas into reality. Therefore the exciting experiences continue for the masses to enjoy.
Building the Arch
Casa Calabria boasts a remarkable architecture interior that commands attention and transports the sense-realms in an aura of wonderment upon entry. Past restaurants restaurant occupancies have helped cultivated the fine and unique atmosphere within including the most recent Tokyo Blue (glass bar), and notable the Bounty of long ago. Remnants of the Bounty Lounge finds the mighty ships intricate hull adorning the entire length of the west-side bar lounge as if the ship had tipped over and left us with this ceiling's masterwork.
Its obvious a lot of thought went into the Casa Calabria creation and design by the owner to place it in upper echelons of architectural significance in multiplicative ways from the start.
Mr. Talerico said once he had the full design he wanted he brought to his cousin Nino Barone to work his craft. The decor of bricks and columns here set a bold distinction within these walls creating an authentic old world setting. “Over seventeen thousand European styled uneven laid bricks were brought in for the columns,” Barone said.
Choosing the Great Options of Where to Sit ?
In general there are four distinct and fabulous areas to sit here depending on the experience you seek. Therefore whatever your choice may be—you’re into something good.
On the west side the lounge host a long bar with surrounding cocktail tables around the peripheral and a stage and the end. The room offers direct viewing of the stage entertainment along with great bar seating for gatherings and conversation.
Before or after dining its not unusual for the impassioned owner Frank Talerico to warmly greet patrons and show them around the restaurant offering some interesting insight into the black and white photographs that adorn the walls and of his family ancestry days in Italy among other topics of interest. The family pictures and village landscapes throughout the restaurant provide the rooms with a warm intimate air of home feel.
The spacious east side room views and vibe immerses into a tropical feel with direct ocean scape splendors. No roadside traffic is viewed or heard—only sounds of the Atlantic waves and the joyful tones of people enjoying the welcoming setting. The inside Oceanside room is long shaped an accommodates roughly 80 people and extended tables for large gathering alongside standard 4 and 6 top tables. This arrangement is well crafted too. A second story ocean side patio overlooking the pool and ocean vista is also a highly sought after setting. The OM grounds also features a longtime highly active tiki bar—about as close to the ocean without being washed away from the tide as you can get. There good times come easy too.
The almost u shaped interior of the restaurant lends itself well with dining in three stylish areas with different table arrangements and setting to accommodate various size groups. The multiple settings also provide a different feel while keeping each area unique and intimate.
The Talerico Family & Voyages Food That Speaks Italian Amore Without Words...
Italian food is known for culinary greatness and Casa Calabria serves that notoriety with great flavors of antiquity with some of the new. Ask any true Italian that has dined here and the many foodies who frequent here—especially the direct Galt Ocean Mile condo residents. Notable this is not Americanized Italian food ingredients that a plethora of restaurants serve across this country.
Setting the Culinary Course:
Talerico describes the restaurants' core was based on his families formal dining table. “We would all gather at the large table that seated ten. Seven of us kids, mom and dad and we always had an extra seat set for someone that might show up.”
His passion for his family crafted recipes was meticulously gathered directly from his parents and some travels to Italy to meet with relatives. Including bringing relatives here to gather the intricately developed family cuisine that was passed down by generations to south Florida. Sisters Sara and Rita are also venture partners in the gathering of fine Ingredients of the restaurant makings here too.
“ My next step was to find a quality chef who was open to implementing my family recipes. I discovered Adriano Serra a great chef who was willing to take on the project,” he voiced. Soon the kitchen served as a laboratory for tasting.” Chef Adriano also brought some of his own fine recipes to the table that corresponds well with the bountiful Talerico family crafted offerings on the menu.
“I flew relatives in before we opened and all were very impressed with his works,” Talerico adds. He added two more chefs before introducing the restaurant in February of 2015, Luca Lobino. Together the kitchen team implemented and shaped the culinary course as we know it. I also added a friendly, passionate Italian general manager that the customers would enjoy and the employees would respect for talent. I found that in Lina Vizza. She also speaks fluent Italian that customers appreciate,” Talerico adds. Since the restaurants experience among patrons and media has been showered with overwhelming acclaim, success and a joy to all who are participating in the culinary and aesthetic delights. Talerico and company are now striving to continue that notoriety knowing the likes of the restaurant business in south Florida is forever fickle.
Measures include tomatoes and sauces, olive oil, porcini mushrooms and dried pasta from his native region shipped in a few times a month and he still makes voyages there seeking that special dish creation of something to enhance his diners experience. Prime ingredients are also shipped here regularly with antipasto meats cured at boutique Calabrian salumeria in the Bronx. The restaurant also features freshly made pastas and daily fresh bakery bread. A cursory glance at the menu finds it bountiful of Italian delicacies yet deeper within its the special fresh ingredients and recipes that heighten the overall flavor and makes the offerings unique. Here homemade and unique is the operative mission among the old and new family.
The daily bread has become a favorite alongside the association of Mama Talerico’s and Aunt Pierina’s delectable homemade marinara sauce in a bread dipping pre-course. Also served beside this is another little dipper bowl creation consisting of black olive and tapenade. Extra virgin olive oil resides on the table for dipping too.
Though all entrées being offered are sustaining a measure popularity, Talerico notes his moms baked Melanzane Ripiene half shell eggplant stuffed with a mix of eggplant and seasoned with basil, garlic, tomato sauce and sprinkled with parmagiano ($21).
Among the Pasta plates, Talerico notes are the Chef’s specialty, Bucatini All’ Amatriciana, consisting of tomato sauce with a delicate cut of pork, onions, and oregano ($19). Gnocchi Di Ricotta—his Aunt Josephine’s special Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi host a choice of sauce: Ala vodka, bolognese, tomato basil, a gorgonzola arugula cream sauce and pesto Genovese for $22. Another house favorite for those with seafood on their mind is the Linguine Ai Frutti Di Mare that boasts mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and scallops in white wine, garlic, parsley or mare Chiaro ($32). In all there are a dozen pasta plates to choose from.
He also notes Chef Adriano’s numerous fine dishes and notable his grilled octopus with mixed vegetables as a destination dish for many. The revered Chef is also a frequent guests greeter on evenings offering patrons some flavorful conversation.
Also on the menu, you will find hearty soup, salads, a variety of fresh pasta, fish (salmon and sea bass also a ravioli stuffed with lobster), meats (filet mignon, veal chop, and rib eye), organic free-range chicken plates and some great desserts.
The crowds on my recent visits varied in age, notable more family oriented in the opening hours with much more couples in the latter dinner hours enjoying the romantic night setting. One common theme is everyone looks pleased with their evening choices.
Reservations are suggested—especially latter week, Casa Calabria has become a highly sought after destination dining experience that doesn’t end on that individual note. A full course of entertainment awaits from Wednesday thru Sunday evenings—when the latter nights comes the enticements do not fade away here.
The Casa Calabria Nightshift
Entertainment is no afterthought here and it shifts to the forefront when the dinner hours are winding down. That’s when the superb vocalist piano players heat up and traverse the room into an intimate concert style venue.
Vocalist, piano player Sal Fazio describes, “I consider Casa Calabria to be more like a big living room than a performance venue. Southern Italian culture is exceptionally social. We always gather around our living room or our “tavolate” and invite friends and family to share songs, food, drinks, and most importantly share our time with one another. At our house, my grandfather picks up his accordion on Sundays and begins playing songs until our guests start clapping, singing along, playing along, and most importantly, smiling along. At Casa Calabria, my brother Giovanni and I serve the same function. We just play Italian music until people start joining in, participating and enjoying one another’s company.
Even though the flavor of music here is likely to step away from Italian at times its never ceases entirely. The music genre played by the brothers is vast as the take in request and show thew the audience their wide range of talent. During this time diners tend to gravitate toward the bar/lounge area if they're not all ready to take in the excitement where dancing is bound to break out.
Casa Calabria Trattoria Salumeria Piano Bar 4040 Galt Ocean Drive (located in the Ocean Manor Beach Resort) North Fort Lauderdale Beach Tel: 954 982 2191
Reservations suggested via phone or internet @ CasaCalabriaftl.com
Live Music: Vocalist piano player – Take in a dinner show without the added entertainment fee. The evening thrills can extend here until 1 am and often does especially later in the week. If you still want more the popular beach-side Tiki bar is open an hour or two later and is also a nice experience to take in. Extensive wine bottle list among other great libation offerings.
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 pm Smoking on the Patio in South end table area.
Open: Tuesday - Sunday from 5 pm
Take A Piece Home: For some, the experience does not end here with the restaurants fine Deli... The Casa Calabria Salumeria offers imported Italian cold cuts and cheeses for take home enjoyment.
Wine Locker: Bring your own wine to store in a locker with your name on it for $800 a year. *plus corking fees.
Casa Calabria Trattoria
*Salumeria *Piano Bar
4040 Galt Ocean Drive (located in the Ocean Manor Beach Resort)
North Fort Lauderdale Beach
Tel: 954 982 2191
Reservations suggested via phone or internet @ http://casacalabriaftl.com/
PHOTO Above: L to R: Casa Calabria Executive Chef Adriano Serra and Sous Chef Luca Lobina. Standing: Casa Calabria General Manager Lina Vizzi and Owner Frank Talerico
Casa Calabria owner Frank Talerico with the legendary Burt Reynolds at Casa Calabria prior to receiving his FMA Humanitarian Award.
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