DESTIN — By my count, La Famiglia opened recently in its fourth Destin location.
First, it was in a site on U.S. 98. Then it traveled east to Destin Commons, where it occupied two different spaces over the years.
Now, it has come back a little farther west and is in a strip of stores adjacent to Walmart.
Fortunately for diners, each time it has moved, its excellent food and service have continued.
Each time I’ve checked out La Famiglia’s latest location, I’ve tried to order something different, which was also my plan this time.
It was thwarted somewhat, however, by the fact that my guest and I went on a Sunday afternoon. We discovered La Famiglia offers only its dinner menu on Sundays.
Two regular diners who arrived after we did also were caught off guard by this, so I didn’t feel so uninformed then. We knew they were regulars because of their conversation with our server.
Pizza is still available for dinner, but none of the panini sandwiches or special lunch dishes are available.
Pizza choices range from cheese to frutti di mare (seafood). Sandwiches come with a choice of salad or fries. La Famiglia also has a cheese calzone with a variety of toppings.
Quickly regrouping, I abandoned my first choice of panino meatball and had, instead, the Taste Dello Chef.
The menu describes this entree as a "small taste" of three dishes — gnocchi al pesto, fettuccine alfredo and lasagna.
Nope. They were large tastes, and there was no way I could finish them.
I started with for-real small tastes of each, and they all were excellent. Then I concentrated on my favorite, the fettuccine. The creamy sauce made each bite a pleasure and, in no time, the casserole dish was empty.
I moved on to the lasagna and enjoyed about half of it before I stopped. I knew I probably could get "help" from my guest with this dish, so I left the rest for him to finish.
The pesto gnocchi was the most unusual dish in the trio, which reminded me of the Italian flag (green, white, red). The gnocchi was tender and the pesto flavorful, but by now I was seriously full.
My guest ordered his favorite Italian dish, the veal alla parmigiana. It came with a small side of spaghetti and red sauce.
The huge portion of veal was deemed excellent as was the portion of my lasagna he finished.
We each had started our meals with salads; I, the house salad, and he, the Caesar salad. Both were cold, crisp and nicely dressed.
A basket of warm bread with seasoned olive oil for dipping also accompanied our meal.
La Famiglia has a special section in its menu listing "homemade pasta." Those include the gnocchi and lasagna as well as cannelloni, manicotti and ravioli.
We love getting dessert as part of these meals but — and you won’t read this often from me — we were absolutely too full. It didn’t even occur to us to get something to bring home.
La Famiglia’s newest location is smaller and more intimate than its most recent previous one. I like it better this way.
There’s still plenty of space for diners at a variety of seating options, from booths and bistro-style four-top tables to more elegant fine-dining tables.
A separate bar at the back of the restaurant also offers seating on stools. There’s a large-screen TV behind the bar. It was on the Weather Channel during our visit, reminding me how lucky we were not to be in Minnesota or anywhere else with blizzard conditions.
The decor is a blend of whimsical, classical and romantic. There’s something interesting to see almost everywhere you look.
We were greeted as we walked in and invited to sit wherever we wanted with the promise the server would follow us, and she did.
I did not get her name, but she took excellent care of us, starting with glasses of ice water and ending with praise for how well we did with our meals despite the unfinished gnocchi.
She offered a box for it, but with a refrigerator filled with holiday leftovers, I knew it probably wouldn’t get eaten.
La Famiglia is accepting donations of canned and boxed foods for Shelter House. You may drop them off any time the restaurant is open until Dec. 21.
Also, La Famiglia is offering Dinner with Santa on three dates and times — 6 p.m. Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 and 3 p.m. Dec. 15.
You may get details about both of these activities on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
A FINAL TASTE
La Famiglia continues to be an excellent choice for Italian cuisine. Here’s hoping they’ve finally found a home to stay for a while.