The Don CeSar and Maritana Grille
The Don CeSar turned 90 this year, celebrating in style with a posh party and luring two fabulous chefs to revamp the menus, Executive Chef Michael Molloy and Maritana Grille’s Chef de Cuisine, Emily Ferrari.
Formerly with the Vinoy, Chef Emily is a talented 29 year old culinary magician. Her Southern roots and Italian heritage influence her love of fresh sourced ingredients. ”We’re getting back to local seafood and farm fresh produce,” says Ferrari. “We still have the steaks we’re known for, but we’re showcasing more composed dishes with Mediterranean and Italian flavors, French style and a Southern twist.”
Maritana Grille’s Own Ferrari
Ferrari attended the Art Institute of Atlanta, working in upscale restaurants and moved to St. Pete in 2014 for a chemistry degree with a focus on food science. She worked at Maritana Grille once before, but after graduating moved to Chattanooga’s best restaurants and country club, recently returning to Maritana to helm the restaurant.
A home cook in her mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens, she loves to play with dishes until they are perfect, sourcing microgreens (Brick Street Farms) and hand-crafting every element of her dishes, all beautifully plated.
“There’s a picture of me with my hands in dough when I was nine months old, and I’ve always loved being in the kitchen. We always had a great Sunday dinner and I want to bring that feeling of an extraordinary meal prepared with love to our guests,” says Chef Emily.
Maritana New Menu
Maritana’s new menu is fun and approachable as is the casual chic vibe in both the restaurant and bar. White linen tablecloths, an exceptional guest experience, flickering white candles, elliptical white china and pewter accents (seashells, octopus, sea turtle), soft jazz and the aquarium tank dominated by a Moray eel create a serene ambiance. (Later this fall, Maritana Grille will be reinvented with a more modern vibe and seating, including a private dining area.)
From the Fiji water in a pewter chiller to a redolent new wine list cultivated by Maritana Grille’s GM ames Pyles (Nickle and Nickle Pinot Noir and other California eno-stars), the dining experience is first rate without being fussy.
Best of show handcrafted cocktails – inspired by the season – are The Flying Fig (Beluga vodka, St. Germain Elderflower, muddled figs, lemon), the Love You Gotta Keep (Hendrick’s gin, Pomegranate Arils, mint, lime), a Debonair Martini with gold flakes and the Booker’s Burbon Berry Bramble.
First up is the best-smelling focaccia scented like an herb garden, with handcrafted seasoned butter. For starters, the chilled bruleed crab is a suberb dish, a deconstructed crab cake with asparagus blanches and served cold with citrus zest, a zing of Asian flavor and a bit of champagne gastric.
In addition to the oysters and seared scallops with pancetta, the pork belly with pickled shallots, charred green onions and carrot puree is an homage to Chef Emily’s Georgia roots, who cures the pork in a salt and sugar mixture.
Farm-to-fresh delights include the roasted beet carpaccio with candied walnuts, blue cheese and a citrus vinaigrette and the heirloom mustard green salad with charred baby carrots and house-made cheese curd, paired with the ahi tuna sashimi.
In addition to the traditional surf and turf and exceptional coffee-rubbed filet and venison loin, the sensational seafood is some of the best in Tampa Bay. The snapper, Maine lobster papardelle in a savory smoked broth and seared sea bass will captivate you but it’s the black bass served with a butternut squash puree that is notable.
“Everyone does Chilean sea bass, but I think the black bass has a richer, more flavorfull bite and I can get the skin nice and crispy,” says Chef Emily, whose accompaniments are equally astonishing, from the lemon caper sauce to the truffle pomme frites and sautéed mushrooms with a cabernet demi-glaze.
Save room for the new dessert menu from Chef Jake, including the caramelized “fire and ice,” orange segmengs and a meringue toasted on the plate served on a fresh banana custard…or the decadent chocolate concoctions.
When Chef Emily isn’t dreaming up new recipes, she likes to visit her Mom in Gulfport and go kayaking, read (American Gods is on her bedstand) and eat Asian food (ramen, sushi). As for Maritana Grille, if you’ve loved it before, you’ll discover even more to love now.
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