Vino Del Grotto harbors wines for sipping by the glass or carting home. Like homesick stomach butterflies, more than 20 wines by the glass flutter down tongues during tasting flights, tantalizing each guest with three 3-ounce portions of grapey goodness in customized selections such as Yosemite View chardonnay or German-imported Valckenberg dornfelder. Peach-apricot chardonnay and green-apple riesling sate fruit-partial palates, and sips of sparkling Belle Jardin brut bubble upon taste buds, giving them the effervescent feeling of flight that ostriches only dream of.
North Beach Bistro is more than a restaurant?it's a legacy. The upscale eatery was the vision of renowned chef Tony Pels, who trained with culinary giants such as Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard, and chef David Seavey, whom Pels mentored for 15 years at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Pels passed away only two months before the restaurant's opening in June of 2008, leaving executive chef Seavey to carry on his tradition of culinary creativity and generosity.
Spurred on by this responsibility, Seavey combines the freshest ingredients with a genuine love for his fellow Floridians. The Jacksonville native crafts hearty and flavorful surf 'n' turf entrees such as the bistro bouillabaisse with Mayport shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish or chargrilled Black Angus ribeye with sauteed mushrooms and port wine sauce. Reddish-gold fixtures in the bar emanate light that's as warm and welcoming as the chef himself. DJs and live music keep the space vibrant, and the dining room's wood floors and spot-lit art give it an air of sophistication. Weekly trivia nights arm guests with knowledge that makes an ideal conversation starter or helps pass the time while stuck in an elevator with Ken Jennings.
One could travel across the world and still not taste as many wines as Corner Bistro has. Sourced from France, Italy, Portugal, and across the United States, the list of more than 100 wines pairs equally with light lunch cuisine such as vegetarian Corner sandwiches or dinner offerings that include braised short ribs and scallops Victoria with truffle-lobster mac 'n' cheese. On Sunday, the bistro unveils a brunch menu populated by an enormous spread of crab cakes benedict, omelets stuffed with bacon and brie, and belgian waffles topped with berries, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier cream. On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at 9 p.m., guests can join Matt "Piano Man" Hall as he croons about rieslings and recounts the time he thumb-wrestled Billy Joel for his nickname.
Equipped with in-depth product knowledge and bottles from all over the world, the consultants of PRP Wine International waltz into homes ready to answer nearly any question a novice oenophile may have. As they pour samples for small groups, they explain everything from the intricacies of flavor profiles and the correct pronunciation of “pinot noir” to the most dramatic way to throw a glass of red at a mortal enemy. After tastings, guests can select any of the wine varietals sampled, all of which are chosen by PRP consultants after thorough scrutiny.
La Cena Ristorante, a fine dining restaurant in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, is a cozy spot for intimate conversations and delicious food. It's a well-hidden gem with an extensive wine bar, burnt sienna textured walls and a downstairs main dining room that has only a few tables. Pastas and sauce are made fresh daily, and the skinny breadsticks and gorgonzola salad are local favorites. The menu is large and complex, and includes little side notes, jokes and anecdotes on everything from why parmesan isn’t served tableside to the fee for splitting an entrée. Dishes like the chicken scallopine, spaghetti carbonara and puttanesca make it obvious why downtowners flock to this Italian eatery. La Cena offers a flourless chocolate mosse, an extensive Italian wine list and an owner/chef who will alter dishes based on dietary restrictions.
The Grotto Wine & Tapas Bar in the heart of San Marco offers a heavy selection of small plates, bruschetta, fromage and desserts to choose from. With unique and shareable bites like a lamb sausage empanada with tzatziki sauce or beef loin skewers laced with a pert horseradish crème fraiche, this upscale tapas bar is a treat for the taste buds. Dozens of wines are available by the glass, and some 300 bottles can be had in full, making The Grotto a great place to try lots of vino while you and a few friends nibble on snacks. The overall décor is fashioned as an Italian wine cellar, complete with tan walls, tall arches and slanted ceilings, while rose wine-colored Italian tile, rusty brick walls and dim recessed lighting makes patrons feel like they are in a hole-in-the-wall Italian piazza sipping freshly crushed grapes.