Oltremare is brand new and beautiful. Created off the lobby of the Amara Cay
Resort oceanside at Mile Marker 80 in Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Oltremare
boats ‘Cucina Italiana.’ The setting is open with an open modern bar. A huge
grouper mural in black is set against translucent glass behind the bar. It
immediately catches the eye as diners enter the space of tables set in the bar
area. There is a partitioned dining space facing floor to ceiling windows that
overlook the resort’s swimming pool and Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Dining is comfortable in the oceanside area with only nine tables. There is a
spectacular view of planted gardens and palm trees, azure waters and, with the
quiet of dinner time, a peaceful setting. A Tiki bar is outside. There is food
and drink service there as well. In the dining area, the floor is inlaid with
small stones. Overhead lights provide comfortable reading for broadsheet menus
held in tropical colored holders. Tables are set with bright silver ware, knives
balanced so that they remain upright, blade down. Tables are oiled butcher block
with comfortable cushioned wicker chairs. Flickering electric candles in tall
wire baskets add to the decor. Wait staff are black clad with black aprons.
Randy, the server, immediately brought cold water in a glass bottle with
porcelain stopper. Darin Goertzen tended bar and offered cocktails with exotic
Italian names like Spagliato. The $12 drink is made with Campari, Cinzano rosso
and Italy’s sparkling Prosecco wine. There is of course the Hemingway Daiquiri
made with ron Zacapa 23 and key lime. The wine list is simple but complete.
Wines by the glass run $8 to $15 with Italian Pinot Grigio and Gavi di Gavi as
well as Pighin Sauvignon Blanc. Red wine lovers will find Roth Estate Merlot and
J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines by the bottle include Piper Sonoma at $45,
Taittinger Cuvee Prestige from France, $125, Charles Heidsieck brut reserve
$165. There are many others to suit taste and budget. Bottled wines run from $28
to $160 for Super Tuscan, San Guido. Jadot Steel from Burgundy is unoaked
Chardonnay at $35 the bottle.
Randy suggested grilled octopus for an appetizer. It is a specialty of the
house presented with wilted kale, tomatoes, olives, potatoes and white beans in
a shallot vinaigrette, $18. There is Frito Misto for $18 as well with rock
shrimp, calamari, cubanelle peppers, fennel, green beans and romanesco. For
those that want an antipasto a cheese and cured meat platter comes with whole
grain mustard, fig jam, honey and grilled bread, $10.
Salads are tastefully prepared and presented. Oltremare’s Homestead salad hosts
tomatoes, shaved carrots, ricotta with sorghum vinaigrette. Their arugula salad
offers fennel, olives, citrus slices with tomatoes and a mustard vinaigrette.
Salads are a-la-carte and run about $9 to 12.
In keeping with Oltremare’s Italian kitchen, pasta reigns with Fettuccini
Carbonara served with black pepper, guanciale, pecorino and yolk, $24. Ragu
Bolognese with lasagnette comes with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and reggiano,
Large plates for the main course offer braised short rib served with polenta in
Sangiovese wine sauce, $31. It was so tender it flaked off the bone and could be
eaten with a fork. There are fresh fish specials and menu items like roasted
snapper, $32, cracked conch Francaise, $29 and wood grilled strip loin steak
with shallots and garlic, $45.
Everything was tastefully presented and served with care. Dining is informal
yet servers respect the fact that dinning out is a special pleasure. Ambiance
and presentation is as important as the food. There is no, “Hey guys,” attitude
so prevalent in restaurants where sloppily dressed servers slide plates across
the table and diners are almost afraid to ask for more bread or cold water.
Service was impeccable, the food done perfectly. Each taste melded with another
to make a perfect meal.
Desserts include Tiramisu, olive oil cake or zeppoli. Zeppoli are something
like sugared donought holes served in a paper lined wire basket with a pot of
chocolate Nutella cream for dipping. The coffee was excellent.
Returning to the car outside the battery was dead. Lights were left on and
forgotten. AAA was going to be more than an hour to respond. When Sylvan, at
Amara Cay Resort’s door, was told of the plight he offered to get his personal
vehicle and long jumper cables. We were started quickly thanks to the
consideration of Sylvan.
For a fine table, comfortable, convivial atmosphere and good Italian food in
the Keys, Oltremare is the best. To find out more visit them on the web at
www.oltremareristorante.com. Call Amara Cay Resort for reservations toll-free at