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An early dinner reservation at Sale e Pepe, inside the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, ensured we would be seated in plenty of time for a spectacular Marco Island sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. And Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. It was a bit nippy for outside dining, but we checked the predicted temps and dressed appropriately; and there was a portable heater near to our table.

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The sunset wasn’t the only spectacular event on the horizon. Our dinner would prove to be one of those meals you’ll remember for the rest of your life. This night would also be imbued with a couple of Sardinian cosmopolitans ($16 each) which were infused with rosemary syrup, a limoncello reduction and served with blueberries and an orange twist (made famous by the HBO series “Sex and the City”). It was our best effort to class-up an already regal affair.

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My dining companion picked the Autunnale ($16) to begin his meal; a salad featuring fall greens, pear, walnuts, crispy smoked prosciutto, citronette dressing (a citrus vinaigrette), and shaved ricotta salata (an Italian cheese made from the whey part of sheep milk). A beauty to behold, the greens were like butter and the cheese? An even richer butter. The sweet and crunchy walnuts with the salty bits of prosciutto brought the balance to this joyous selection.

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For his entrée, he selected the 12 oz. black Angus ribeye ($50) and a side of broccolini ($12) featuring Calabrian chili, garlic and nduja, a spicy pork. The hearty ribeye was cooked to near perfection (and that’s about all one can expect). The broccolini had a nice crunch and the chili sauce made this side a spicy masterpiece.     

I started off with the crudi ($19), which features the chef’s selection of raw seafood (tonight was flounder), and seasonal Mediterranean condiments; which on this night included threads of saffron. This must be what it feels like to be a royal. Why did Harry and Meghan give this up?

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I continued my ocean-voyage with the flounder “Meunière” ($42), Georges Bank flounder with a sprinkling of green beans, pearl onions, almonds, lime and a brown butter balsamic emulsion. The stronger flavors resided in the crust-like top of the filet, while the inside featured mouth-watering tenderness and a nice delicate flavor, allowing you to create a different experience with the way you took each bite.

For dessert, I picked the panna cotta ($12), featuring little bits of dark green pistachio cake, an Acacia honey cream with a gel texture and surrounded by fresh diced strawberries and with a small serving of strawberry sorbet. Just like my flounder, the presentation allowed me to experiment with each amazing bite.

My dining companion picked the “Lingotto al Cioccolato” ($12), featuring Valrhona grand cru dark chocolate ganache, a hazelnut crust, sea salt caramel and a gold leaf. Think of it as an elegant Milky Way bar for the wealthy. I jest. The presentation of this dessert was just as incredible as the rich flavor.

When the sun sets on another beautiful winter’s day on Marco Island, Sale e Pepe offers a great way to usher in the night. You won’t be disappointed. You might be a little surprised when the bill arrives, but when your review the night and the memories you’ve made, you’ll consider it a wise investment that pays dividends well into the future.

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This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food.

If you go

Sale e Pepe

  • In the beach pavilion behind the Marco Beach Ocean Resort
  • 480 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239- 393-1600
  • sale-e-pepe.com
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