Mimmo’s Ristorante Italiano is tucked away in a row of shops and businesses on U.S. 98 in a very busy area of Destin. They take reservations, but as it was a weeknight I figured we could drop in and get a table.
We did, but the place was nearly full, so larger parties should definitely call ahead. Apparently a lot of folks wanted Italian food that night. And the restaurant is warm and romantically lit by brass lamps and chandeliers. The layout of the place is shotgun-style, deep with a high-ceilinged interior. There are wooden tables, booths of assorted sizes, a sturdy bar, and a stylish-but-functional brick oven in the back.
The color scheme is gold, wood and earthy red—part salon, part wine cave. The front door is framed by a rather theatrical looking curtain, ready-parted to enhance your entrance.
We got a table and menus. Our server (Mackenzie) brought us water and a basket of warm bread and seasoned olive oil for dipping, and left us to study. Mimmo’s offers a lot of choices—my usual online reconnaissance had failed to narrow it down much. The chewy, crusty and tangy bread helped—I now wanted pretty much the whole menu.
There are appetizers, salads (side and dinner-sized), pasta, meat dishes, pizza and calzones (sandwiches are available at lunch on weekdays), and a kids menu. My newly eight-year-old daughter Grace had decided on cheese ravioli in advance (she does online recon as well), so my wife and I ordered a starter of fried calamari (our favorite) and tried to make up our minds.
I finally narrowed it to spaghetti bolognese, lobster pappardelle, beef and veal tortelloni, rack of lamb, shrimp alla Diavola, mixed seafood linguine, or linguine with clams and red sauce. Actually I hadn’t narrowed it. I waited until the last minute, spun the mental wheel, and ordered the linguine with clams. My wife had no hesitation about ordering the veal marsala.
The app arrived. I never get tired of fried calamari, especially in Italian restaurants. Mimmo’s offers an excellent version—both slices and tentacles, hot, crackling crunchy, greaseless, with a smooth, tangy marinara sauce for dipping. We didn’t let it cool.
Other appetizers are soup of the day (shrimp bisque), garlic rolls, sautéed mussels, mixed seafood, shrimp alla Diavola (garlic and crushed red peppers), meatballs and sausage, bruschetta, baked stuffed eggplant, meat and cheese plate, and focaccia.
The place was pretty much full by this time. Everyone seemed perfectly relaxed, content to stay put and linger over the wine and each other’s company. No one was being rushed, either. It’s just a nice place to be.
Mackenzie brought out our entrees, having first delivered a second basket of warm bread. My wife’s veal, thinly pounded, was layered on a bed of angel hair pasta, with an earthy, fragrant wine and mushroom-laced brown sauce. Fork tender, the veal melted in the mouth, and if you order it, make sure you have enough bread to mop up.
Linguine and red clam sauce is a pretty common item on Italian menus—Mimmo’s takes their version several steps higher. The dish smelled of herbs and the sea. The clams are served in their shells (with a bowl for empties). In no time you’re into the rhythm—sniff, twirl pasta, spear clam, eat, dip bread into tiny shell, repeat. The tomatoes in the sauce were meaty, rich, with a roasted taste. A generous dose of olive oil pulls everything together.
Other menu items include seared tuna salad, caprese, Caesar or chop salads with optional chicken, shrimp or salmon; lasagna, gnocchi, manicotti, penne, spaghetti, or linguine with various sauces, fettuccine alfredo, carbonara, cheese or lobster ravioli, risotto, veal or chicken saltimbocca (with prosciutto), veal or chicken parmigiana or scaloppine; pizza—margherita, pepperoni, rustica, four-cheese, vegetarian, or Sicilian; and calzones stuffed with prosciutto, chicken, or mozzarella. There’s also a daily special—veal chop that night.
The dessert special was an Almond Joy cake, which sounded good, but there were other choices—tiramisu, cannoli, spumoni, cheesecake, and Nutella pizza. We got the latter, which takes a few minutes, being baked to order.
The Nutella (and chocolate chips) are thickly spread on a chewy pizza crust, baked, then sprinkled with pistachio nuts and dusted with powdered sugar. There were eight portions. We ate three and boxed the rest. I like Nutella best on ice cream, but it makes a good pizza too. Maybe with ice cream…