Coste new gem in Diamondhead crown
By JESSE MEADOWS
Food, beverage, experience.
That’s what the Diamondhead Resort is selling with their new restaurant, Coste.
Want to eat a cedar plank salmon in your flip-flops, or impress a dinner date with a panoramic view of the sunset over lobster carbonara?
Their newly-renovated dining room could be the perfect place, where suede meets marble meets shorts, because you’re classy, but you’re still on the beach, after all.
And there’s no way to forget it, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that suspend your table above the Gulf.
With so many guest rooms becoming available across the island, General Manager Neil Hopgood wanted to set the Diamondhead apart.
“It’s getting to the point where you’re going to have food and beverage be the destination, and the rooms are going to be secondary,” he said.
Last June, they knocked out three guest rooms on the lobby level to expand the square footage of their former restaurant, Chloe’s, double the size of the kitchen, and add a swanky bar lounge, investing millions in the upgrade.
They decked out the dining room in suede blue chairs and contemporary white marble tables, adding warmth to the room with dark wood accents and millwork.
“There was no money spared on the overall look,” said Hopgood.
The venue’s highlight, though, is the floor-to-ceiling windows, which not only give guests great views, but create an opportunity for special events.
“We’re looking at the Singer-Songwriter Festival in September; this would be a fantastic vantage point. We can tie in the music inside with the new sound system we’ve got,” he said.
With the aesthetics sorted, Hopgood turned his attention to crafting a menu that could satiate a range of palates.
He brought in Anthony Ventura, a young, dynamic chef who was looking to be challenged.
“His first tasting nailed it for us. That’s what sold us. The flavors, the presentation, the colors on the plate we’ve been in this business for 40 years and when a chef comes along, someone with culinary experience like that, you know,” he said.
Originally from Ohio, Ventura started as a dishwasher at the age of 13, and was never formally trained.
He was running a kitchen before he graduated high school, he said, and joined the Marriott Corporation at age 18, where he got the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable, experienced chefs.
“That kind of took my career to the next level, to where I could travel wherever I wanted to go. It took me to some places like San Diego and Hawaii, and now Florida,” he said.
With a background in classic Italian and French cuisine, the 27-year-old has tattooed the phrase “mise en place” across his forearm.
It’s a French culinary term meaning, “everything in its place.”
The term has become a philosophy for chefs in the kitchen, who believe preparedness is the cornerstone of success.
And Ventura is prepared. He spends much of his time researching ingredients and tweaking dishes until they reach a proper balance.
“I played around with a dish 15 different times until I got it exactly where I wanted it to be, and then I wrote a recipe,” he said.
“When you’re looking at something salty, something sweet, something acidic, almost every dish on the menu has those aspects in there.”
Ventura pays special attention to the ingredients he puts in his food, even down to the homemade french fries, which are made with Kennebec potatoes instead of the regular Idaho.
“It’s not stuff you can buy at Publix. It’s amazing, I’ve learned a lot from him,” said Kathy Kiesinger, assistant general manager.
In addition to creating strong flavor profiles, Ventura also managed to craft a menu that is versatile.
“I think this restaurant is different because we want to capture everybody, not just one type of person,” he said.
Dishes range from honey sriracha chicken wings and certified angus beef burgers, to cinnamon soy-glazed short rib and red snapper oscar with wasabi barnaise.
He’s most proud of his lobster carbonara, a classic Italian dish with an island twist.
It’s only done correctly a third of the time in most restaurants, he said, and he prides Coste on making all its sauces from scratch.
“We cure our own pork belly for 24 hours, we render that off in the pan, so that’s our pork aspect. (It’s) a true carbonara with lobster meat and a two-ounce lobster tail on top with parmesan cheese,” he said.
Now that he’s perfected his dishes, Ventura is focused on making a name for Coste throughout Southwest Florida.
“That’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now. Making sure that we are the best, and we’re doing exactly what we need to do, changing what needs to be changed, and we’re moving with the progression of the business and not being complacent,” he said.
Hopgood is optimistic for their future.
“(The hotel) had a record November, we’re having a record December, and we’re going to have a record January,” he said. “With this restaurant, we’ll have a record year in 2019.”
DiamondHead Beach Resort is at 3215, 2000 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach.