Fleming Island, FL 32003
When a trusted peer-recommended, we try Santioni’s we were giddy with anticipation. My friend and I had high hopes as we traveled the 40 plus miles to Flemming Island for a Sunday dinner adventure. A small unit in one of the many strip malls that line the highway; but once inside you are transported to a time past, reminiscent of many of the Italian restaurants found in Italy. Formally dressed tables, sparkling glasses and well-polished silver, we were encouraged. Once seated and presented with menus, our drinks ordered we looked over the offerings. The menu selections quite basic, Veal Marsala, Shrimp Scampi, Stuffed Shells, we have seen it all before.
We started with Antipasto Salad, a mixture of ham, salami and mozzarella pinwheels on a bed of lettuce with pepperoncini, tomatoes, and olives. Although uninspired salad fare, the crispy greens, delicious cheese and meat made it a refreshing and enjoyable dish.
For our second shared plate the stuffed mushrooms, large mushroom caps, filled with crabmeat, and bread crumbs stuffing then finished in a garlic white wine sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. I am a cheese loving person, yet I was turned off by this dish. These beautiful fat, tender mushrooms with the sweet crab and bread mix got lost in the cheese that covered them. We moved the cheese aside and enjoyed the dish.
We added an order of mussels simmered in white wine, garlic, and olive oil; this may have been the most disappointing dish of all, Small with little meat, the broth tasteless.
We chose two pretty basic pasta dishes for our main meal. My friend loves gnocchi, so that was her dish, although described as “little pillows” to me they were more like little “gummies” served in a marinara sauce. The sauce had a sweet yet spicy flavor which saved the dish.
I went with the linguini and clam sauce, thinking the worst thing is over cooked pasta, how wrong I was. There were about a half dozen small clams still in the shell as a garnish, almost too small to bother with, but the clams in the sauce were plentiful and tender. My issue was with the white clam sauce, wine, and garlic mix. Light on the garlic, little salt the sauce itself so thick that as it cooled it became gelatinous and unpleasant in the mouth.
We decided to risk dessert, and order two cannoli; made in house and stuffed upon order this was the best dish of the meal. Cannoli shells were crisp, ricotta sweet, beaten to a creamy smoothness and then dressed in fresh whipped cream. Complete delight.
Overall, we came away unimpressed, excellent service and lovely décor mean nothing if the food does not deliver and in this instance it did not. But that being said, the restaurant has been in business since 1987, so they must be doing something right. Go check it out for yourself, make it a date night or double date night, leave the kiddies at home for this one.