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MoJoe's moves in

April 4, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor (jsalmond@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Diners have a new option on San Carlos Island - for the first time in years.

MoJoe's Reef Bar and Grille opened its doors quietly the first few weeks in March after months of renovation work on its interior.

Now, it's ready for business: the rustic interior with a modern undertone is breathing some new life into San Carlos Boulevard.

Article Photos

The wrap-around bar is everyone's favorite place to sit, owner Joe Orlandini said.

Owner Joe Orlandini partnered with Executive Chef Jeff Rizzo, who worked at the same location when it was called the Fish Monger.

Orlandini is planning to revamp the exterior at 19030 San Carlos Blvd. with a more Key-West style and had planned to open up the walls with windows and maybe an open-air concept.

"It was so dark in here before," Rizzo said.

Some of the exterior alterations will have to wait for permitting, but Orlandini wanted to get the location up and running. Skylights and white paint brighten the place up, but Orlandini said he's started getting used to the enclosed building - and starting to like it.

Most of the nearby restaurants are open-air with waterfront views, but it's nice to have somewhere to get out of the sun, Orlandini said.

"We had to adjust the interior, but it came out good," he said. "When we got it done, I fell in love with it."

The interior's rustic touches, such as the dark wood bar, wood paneling accents and Orlandini's collection of vintage boat motors, are countered by some modern flair, and the dcor matches the menu.

Rizzo developed a menu of diverse, but not too numerous, entree selections with a focus on fresh, locally caught seafood and ethically-sourced premium chicken and beef.

The dishes are an eclectic mix: there's a Moroccan stew, a rigatoni bolognese from Rizzo's grandmother's recipe, made-to-order chicken pot pie, and a whole-fried snapper all on the same menu.

"The whole-fried snapper has been one of the favorites," Rizzo said.

His favorite is the 30-day aged New York strip steak.

"We wanted a great product with crisp plates, be as local as possible at a good price," he said.

Orlandini said the two had a little bit of a learning curve with the menu. Everyone loves to sit at the bar, he said, and people were wanting smaller portion sizes and more fried options, something he'd hoped to stay away from. Orlandini wanted to focus the menu on healthy entrees, but added in a few indulgent options by popular demand. Rizzo also developed a happy-hour style menu of small plate items, like oysters Rockefeller, sliders, and more.

Rizzo was one of the chefs when the restaurant was the Fish Monger, a popular spot among locals owned and operated by Nick and Mary Ruland. It was open for approximately 25 years before it shut down in 2014, and specialized in serving up fresh fish with occasional guest chefs and bartenders. After closing it down, the Rulands decided to sell it to Orlandini.

"I started getting blond hair," Nick Ruland joked. "I'm glad, they're doing great stuff."

Rizzo said he's happy to be working four miles from home again; his last job was for a restaurant in Naples on Fifth Avenue. While he's been head chef before, The Reef comes with a new title: Executive Corporate Chef. Orlandini already has MoJoe's Coffee Bar on Fort Myers Beach and is cooking up plans for further expansion of his new brand.

"I'm excited, there's a lot of stuff in the works," Rizzo said, "I've been working my whole career for this."

MoJoe's Reef is open from 4 p.m.to about midnight. As its patronage grows, it will expand to 2 a.m. There is live music from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There is bar seating as well as generous table seating.

 
 

 

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