Sunday, November 9, 2014

Merlino's Is Bringing South Philly Inspired Italian Cuisine to Boca

Hello Foodie Friends,
Tis I, once again, out and about in Boca discovering new Food Finds so that I can report back to you all my latest delicious discoveries. This past week I have been a busy girl with 3 invites to preview new restaurants. The first one I will be discussing in this post is Merlino's, located in Downtown Boca in the former Segreto, former Capri location. The new owners decided to knock down the private room in the back and opted to expand the bar to become a central focal/gathering point of the restaurant where unique specialty hand crafted cocktails are already getting high accolades.   

Merlino's has assembled a fine team. Guiding Merlino’s is legendary restaurant manager John Wyner.  His reputation in the South Florida restaurant industry is impressive having successfully run one of Boca Raton’s top steakhouses for many years. Wyner has had long history in the hospitality world starting back on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City.  He went from shucking oysters on the boardwalk to becoming a Director of the Atlantic City Hilton where he managed and developed a staff of 1,500 employees in all areas of the hotel operation. 

Mixologist/Beverage Scientist Lee
Merlino’s Manager Lee Hoechstetter is considered a Beverage Scientist whose signature cocktails I had a chance to taste (well not all of them, of course, but several which I will describe to you below) on this evening and I can tell you with confidence that you will be blown away by them.  “I’ve designed cocktails that customers will remember forever.  We are only using the freshest ingredients and are creating a true supper club.  Our patrons will enjoy a fine dining experience and then join us at the bar for a dazzling display of drinks.” 

Merlino's chefs are extremely passionate about what they're doing on a daily basis; "cooking is not what we do to make a living, it is what we live to do." That's kind of like my motto: I live to eat, as compared to the alternative that I always heard my father say, when I was growing up, that he eats to live.

 All of the cocktails at Merlino's are made with fresh squeezed fruits, herbs and garnishes.
Spring Garden
Fresh squeezed lemon, lychee puree, & Tito's vodka, St. Germaine Elderflower and garnished with small edible flowers

LCB Line
This drink is named after the hockey players from the Philadelphia Flyers
 The LCB Line is made with Woodford Reserve, a top shelf bourbon, Luxardo Marachino liquor, homemade simple syrup (basil, coriander, mint & two types of sugar) and garnished with a spear of imported marachino cherries. As if that wasn't already a really cool drink, Lee decided to take it up yet another notch by toasting a marshmallow right in front of us and set the charred pillow right on top to garnish. Lee suggests that you move the garnish around, enabling the char to soak up some of the pungentness of the bourbon. I have to admit, I would never ordinarily order a bourbon drink, it's just not my thang, but...with such a fun display, I was tempted. And wouldn't you know it, he was right. That char from the toasted marshmallow really toned it down and mellowed it out. Not bad, not bad at all. It's like a toasted marshmallow Manhattan.

Jim Furci, Publisher Florida Food & Farm

Cucumber Addiction
Fresh cucumber, lemon juice, Hangar One vodka, fresh pear puree with a Scotch Bonnet simple syrup and smoked paprika garnish

What a cool presentation this Cucumber Addiction was. Now, with an ingredient like Scotch Bonnet in its name, I was less than eager to give it a try because we have grown such peppers at home and I know they are the hottest of the hot and yours truly, as some of you might recall, has very little tolerance for heat. I was assured by Lee that the injection was really not hot which meant I had the green light to give it a go. I love the interactive part of this cocktail. I was instructed to take the little syringe which contained the Scotch Bonnet simple syrup, inject it into the cocktail and then use it to stir the drink. How fun. The dark powder "substance" on the plate next to the syringe is smoked paprika which I was told to sprinkle some of that directly into the drink. This was a fun, whimsical and well thought out cocktail and highly enjoyable to drink as well.
Moscow Mule 

 Once we sat down for dinner, the specialty cocktails did not stop. I was asked what I'd like to have and with very little hesitation, I asked if he could make me a Moscow Mule. Again, continuing to impress me, Lee belted out proudly, "I'll do you one better, I will make you one with homemade Ginger Beer (not all bars carry Ginger Beer, the canned kind, let alone would have the know-how to make it from scratch. Kudos to Lee). My Moscow Mule with the crystalized ginger garnish was fantastic!
Antipasto Merlino

Meatball & Sausage 

Merlino's GM, John Wyner
Rosemary Staltare introducing the Chefs

 Pear stuffed pasta, in a four cheese sauce. Blue cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella and parmigiano

Grilled salmon in a dill beurre blanc sauce

Shrimp Marinara Linguini
Jumbo shrimp in a garlic marinara sauce

Chef Angelo

Gelato and whipped cream sandwiched between housemade Italian cookies and served with caramel sauce


A Decadent Dessert Platter Assorted platter of canoli, Italian cheesecake & tiramisu

We enjoyed this scrumptious multi course meal in Merlino’s glassed enclosed private dining room, which is available for private parties or corporate dinners. It features a Flat screen HD TV and can accommodate up to 40 guest for a sit-down dinner.
Merlino's is located at 39 SE 1st Avenue, Boca Raton. You can check out their menu online at or call them at 561-756-8437.
Until we eat again...
     I send you delicious wishes, xo
Denise Righetti
C.F.O. (Chief Foodie Officer)
Denise's Foodie Events & Savor Our City™

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