Fight the crowd for fine food at Old Marco Pub

The other night, after I finished work around 8 p.m., I wondered where to go for dinner. Well, just down the road from my work is a neat little fantastic restaurant called the Old Marco Pub. The pub has been there for a number of years and has an established clientelle. I strongly suggest you call for reservations if you want to eat there before 8 p.m. because it's packed from 5 to 7.30 p.m. every night.

I like to go out around 8 because most of the crowd is leaving and the rush is over, well on Marco it is anyway. Another thing I like about going out late is that the servers and the kitchent aren't as busy, so the service is better and so is the food.

I'm sure you can imagine having about a hundred people show up at your house between 7 and 7:30 p.m. for dinner. When that happens you can't pay attention to every one at the same time and often a few mistakes are made.

Veal, shrimp and chicken Francese sampler platter served on angel hair pasta.

Tiki Tim / Special to the Islander

Veal, shrimp and chicken Francese sampler platter served on angel hair pasta.

Even in the best of restaurants when they get slammed, it's hard to give everyone a hundred percent. But those of us in the business are used to it and really try. That's why I avoid peak dining hours during season — it's easier on the establishment and makes a better dining experience for me.

But I have never had a bad experience at the Old Marco Pub. It's always been good.

Tom and Susan Ackerson are the owners and they are both out on the floor at all times to make sure all is well. And it helps to have a great staff behind you, and they do.

Chef Ettore Mancini heads the kitchen. "Eddie" has been there for years, even before it was the Old Marco pub, and has a huge local and seasonal following. One taste of his made-to-order creations, and you can feel the love for cooking Mancini has. For example, he makes his tomato sauces purely out of tomatoes by reducing the juices of a certain kind of tomato, without using paste or puree. Now that's dedication.

The crowd was leaving the pub as I settled in at the European-style bar for a glass of merlot and a gaze through the menu.

Rich Massa is the bartender and handles the service at a few tables around the bar. Rich is no stranger to service, he also works on the Marco Island princess as a first mate, bartender and server.

The owners, Tom and Susan Ackerson, were having dinner next to me when they explained that they serve their red wine at the right temperature, 62 degrees, and not many places on Marco do that.

For starters, I ordered a house salad with a delicious vinaigrette dressing made by "Eddie." The salad was served with warm hard rolls infused with a hint of rosemary.

The Old Marco Pub has at least 10 appetizers to choose from. A hot antipasto sampler with large broiled gulf shrimp, clams casino, clams oreganato and cheese-filled eggplant rolatini is a popular choice according to Susan Ackerson. The size of this appetizer can be made to serve two to three people for $12.95 or four or more for $19.95.

The menu is divided up into specialty sections. There are three different types of eggplant and six different chicken dishes which are all served with either pasta or potato. The hand-cut steaks are to die for, all large cuts of prime grade beef. Personally, I think "Eddie's" filet au poivre with pepper corns and butter cream sauce is one of the best in town. All their seafood is fresh. And when "Eddie" stuffs the grouper with a generous pile of hand-picked crab meat and laces it with a reduced lobster sauce, tastebuds are sure to be in heaven.

I ordered a francese sampler that consisted of shrimp, grouper and chicken, all dipped in egg batter and lightly sautéed in a light lemon butter served with angel hair pasta. It was light and delicious.

I could go on and on about the menu at the Old Marco Pub, so I suggest you go on the Web and check it out yourself: oldmarcopub.com.

Or visit the pub in person and ask for Billy Bear as a server. He has been around for years. I worked with him at the Old Marco Inn.

Call 642-9700 to reserve tables for parties of five or more. Dinners are served from 4:30 p.m. And if you want to avoid that crowd, wait unitl 8 — and it will be great.

• Francese is easy to make home.

All you have to do is take your thin piece of grouper and dredge it in seasoned flour, then dredge in egg wash and sauté.

Top the grouper with a lemon butter white wine sauce, and toss it on your favorite pasta or rice.

If you want to impress your next dinner guests, throw some capers in the dish and you've just made grouper picata.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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