by Joe Culpepper
In his book “Playing For Pizza,” best-selling author John Grisham vividly describes Italians’ unabashed appreciation of fine food and wine. Dining in romantic Italian locales such as Rome, Venice, Sicily or Florence – or Parma, per Grisham’s novel – is typically reason for celebration; meals often last for hours.
Vinnie R’s, a family-owned New York-style Italian restaurant in Navarre, Fla., strives to make dining a similarly enjoyable experience.
Daniel and Paulette Rollant, along with general manager Michael Giachetti, opened Vinnie R’s in years ago with one goal: To serve the finest, freshest Italian food at affordable prices and with an attitude.
“There are a lot of Italian restaurants around,” Daniel Rollant said recently, “but we offer something that’s different, unique. All of our food is fresh, made from scratch. We only use top-of-the-line ingredients, like Grändé Wisconsin Mozzarella cheese.
This philosophy carries through to the other ingredients that we use.”
Not only does Vinnie R’s serve only the finest and freshest ingredients, it also prepares its sauces from scratch.
The cooks mix, weigh and roll their own dough daily. Many ingredients such as olive oil, ziti and linguini noodles are imported directly from Italy. Vinnie R’s homemade lasagna is its most popular fare. It’s a combination of layers of pasta, Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, homemade meat sauce and smothered in Mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection.
Another favorite is the Tour of Italy, featuring a two-cheese or meat Ravioli with Manicotti and a choice of spinach or cheese shell, covered in Vinnie R’s signature Marinara sauce, with an extra-large meatball and toasted garlic bread.
Seafood is popular in Navarre, and Vinnie R’s offers several mouthwatering pasta specials.
One best-seller is the Lobster and Shrimp A La Trattoria – succulent butterfly shrimp topped with fresh lobster, dusted with cracked black pepper and sea salt, baked in Vinnie’s original white wine/garlic butter sauce over linguini in a homemade Alfredo sauce.
Another fave is the traditional Shrimp Scampi, featuring eight fresh Gulf shrimp roasted in garlic and Parmesan butter sauce with a side of Angel Hair pasta.
Vinnie’s also specializes in spaghetti, strombolis and calzones, subs and salads. But you don’t want to leave without experiencing the New York-style thin-crust pizza. The Vinnie R’s Special features eight gourmet ingredients – pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black and green olives.
Vegetarians will love the Bada-Boom topped with artichoke hearts, spinach, feta, mushrooms, tomatoes and minced garlic.
Vinnie’s offers a variety of wines that complement every entrée. In addition to domestic brands, several Italian beers are available: Peroni, Nastro, Azzurro, Moretti La Rossa and Birra Moretti.
“We try to stay away from wines you can buy most anywhere,” Rollants said. “Most of the prices on our wine list are in the moderate price range, between $17 and $22 a bottle. We have two that sell for $39 a bottle for special occasions.”
Snowbirds are among Vinnie R’s most valued customers. “Several Snowbirds have remarked that our food is very similar to what they are used to back home,” Rollant said. “Many of them appreciate premium cheese, which we go to great lengths to acquire and serve.”
A brief wait can be expected on weekend nights. That’s a good time to check out Vinnie’s paperback book exchange. You might even discover a copy of Grisham’s “Playing For Pizza” to further whet your appetite.
Originally posted February 2008
Sadly in December 2011 Mr. Vinnie – also known as “Mr. Dan” died unexpectedly. However, Mrs. Vinnie, Paulette, continues to own and run Vinnie R’s. A Dan Rollant Memorial Fund in Dan’s honor has been set up at the Navarre High School Baseball Booster Club for support of the baseball field and yearly scholarships for a few graduating baseball players. Dan and Paulette loved baseball to spend many days at Spring Training games. If you come by to dine, be sure to stop by to see a Memorial Wall set up in the restaurant to highlight Mr. Vinnie’s favorite activities of napping, baseball, fishing and reading the paper & catching the “Great Grouper” that matches his shirt!