Cafe de Marco: Succulent old Florida feel with a touch of Europe

With a cozy niche for the old Florida seafood house, and a flavorful flair for steaks, lamb, and poultry, the newly remodeled and decorated Café de Marco celebrates twenty-five years of excellence and fine dining on Marco.

In Europe, the fine dining experience is a cherished and favorite pastime, and at the Café de Marco, Europeans frequent the former chambermaid’s cottage as local regulars and not as visitors on vacation.

“This summer,” Café proprietor Sandy Francino explained, “we remodeled everything from the ground up. Our building dates back to the 1800s when the Café de Marco was the living quarters for the chambermaids of the Old Marco Inn. The original floor was beginning to bounce so some very talented gentlemen worked very hard to position new floor joists adjacent to the original foundation timbers. We then chose a new interior design featuring the warm colors of rum raisin tort, and caramel maple to compliment the new Café-style tables and chairs. We also remodeled the restrooms, added new window treatments and a new kitchen.

“We’re all very excited,” Francino continued, “about our new contemporary look, our new specialty menu designer from Belgium, and all of the old style Café de Marco charm that keeps our quality consistent.”

Arriving with the week before Christmas, the culinary adventuress, little sister and I, were greeted as old friends by Carla and Samantha in the inviting and quaint foyer of Café de Marco.

After settling into a cozy corner that can only be Café de Marco, we were welcomed by our server Scott Terres. Upon first glance, we were immediately captivated by the new menu specials designed by Kenneth Vandeecken of the culinary institute in Brughes, Belgium.

Although veteran Chef Randre Jean, is still preparing his daily delights — that range from New Orleans style frog legs to the Jumbo Prawns that have made Café de Marco famous — Chef Kenneth Vandeecken is now adding his own ingredients to the menu to combine the best of two culinary worlds into one fantastic recipe. As Chef Vandeecken explained, “For me, it’s all about the seafood. It’s my passion!”

For $9.50, the Café de Marco Ahi tuna appetizer is proof that Menu designer Vandereeken is true to his word. This sushi-grade tuna starter is pan-seared, pepper-encrusted, and served with a superb seaweed salad. This terrific treat could easily be an entrée.

There is just something special and secret about the Oysters Rockefeller at Café de Marco. Also for $9.50, a secret ingredient prevails that somehow enhances the taste of an award winning recipe that features fresh-shucked oysters, grilled bacon and spinach, a blend of secret cheeses, and just a tiny touch of anisette. For aficionados of a classic starter, the Café de Marco Oysters Rockefeller is a must.

With Scott’s kind attention and suggestions, our trio decided on the Blackened grouper for $25.95, the Chilean sea bass special also for $25.95 and Chef Randre Jean’s choice filet mignon for the market price of $36.95

After sharing the appetizers and relishing salads — featuring a raspberry vinaigrette with blue cheese crumbles — our party was overwhelmed by the colorful presentation of the entrées at Café de Marco.

After her first bite of Chilean sea bass, and before I could try the blackened grouper, Vicki Lynn announced to the table, “Oh my God, you guys have to taste this! It’s incredible.”

As usual, the culinary adventuress was right. Marinated with a special Japanese “Misso” soybean paste, and finished with lemon butter sauce, this Chilean sea bass entrée served with Jasmine rice is worthy of another platinum plate award.

The blackened grouper was a true tribute to Chef Randre Jean and the New Orleans Cajun cookery style. Not only can our local grouper be seasoned and blackened, but snapper and Mahi Mahi are also tasty Café de Marco selections that can be Cajun fired and accompanied with pan-seared onions and red and green peppers and a special mango chutney.

The Chef’s choice filet was, as little sister described, “heavenly.” Served on filo puff pastry, the Café de Marco filet mignon is a 10-ounce choice-filet grilled and garnished with marinated portabella mushrooms and finished with a garlic port-wine sauce. Our compliments to both of the culinary masters at Café de Marco.

Located at 244 Palm St, in Old Marco, The cozy and quaint, former housing for the chambermaids of the Old Marco Inn is now a redecorated and remodeled dinning forum with tremendous patron loyalty.

Café de Marco offers an extensive wine list to complement any meal, and an excellent selection of port, sherry, and fine desert wines.

The daily desserts feature the famous “Marco Puff” with puff pastry, ice cream, Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry. Sandy’s grandmothers Regatta Cheese Cake remains a favorite, and a new addition of “Molten Lave Cake,” is a real sweet treat with a not quite finished chocolate cake and a molten chocolate center.

Café de Marco is open for dinner seven nights from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. between Christmas and Easter, and closed on Sundays between Easter and Christmas. For reservations, call 394-6262. A web site is available at

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Tom Williams writing has been published in Amsco School Publications; he is a local sailboat Captain and Marriott associate for 28 years. His debut action adventure novel is now under contract and will be published by ArcheBooks in the upcoming year. Tom is available at

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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