#36 of 197 Destin Restaurants

Fat Clemenza’s

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Fat Clemenza's: Destin's Premier Brick-Oven Pizzeria
Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Outside it may look like Destin, but inside it's pure Chicago. Fat Clemenza's Italian food is as authentic as it gets. With owners originally from Chicago, proprietors know their Italian food.

- The FloridaPanhandle.com Local Expert Team

Fun fact: Fat Clemenza’s is named after a fictional character in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather. You’ll see other nods to fabled gangsters scattered around the restaurant in the way of photographs. That said, Fat Clemenza’s is not about crime families at all. This is a culinary story of a man who moved from Chicago to Florida, but never forgot his roots.

In 2008, Dominic Domiano – whose family tree is firmly planted in Italy – joined three partners to open Fat Clemenza’s. Their goal was to provide an authentic taste of Italy to diners over 5,000 miles away.

One thing you’ll notice in the eatery is that staff uses a blackboard to announce the daily specials. The idea was borrowed from the famous Chicago restaurant, Tufano’s. The blackboard is where you’ll find original recipes the chefs have come up with, over-the-top meals  not found on the regular extensive menu.

The problem with coming up with a list of favorites in a restaurant as fresh and authentic as Fat Clemenza’s is the feeling that we’ve omitted dishes that surely deserve a mention. Still, here is a sampling of things that blew us away:

Homemade Garlic Rolls
Ask anyone seated around you if they’re a regular. Then ask them how Fat Clemenza’s homemade garlic rolls are. The reaction is priceless. In fact, one of the first things we heard about were these perfectly seasoned, perfected baked rolls. With only five on the plate, you may want to order extra.

Citrus Salmon Salad
One of the freshest salads we’ve come across with grilled salmon, strawberries, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, and walnuts over a spring mix and topped with raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Not only is it delicious but you can count it toward your daily fruits and veggies goal.

Fettuccine Alfredo
We know that fettuccine alfredo is available at any Italian restaurant. However, we’ve never tasted anything quite like this, likely due to Fat’s homemade alfredo sauce – perfectly creamy and warm. We added chicken, but you could as easily add shrimp to create the perfect filling dish.

Wood Fired Calzone
We opted for the Pugliese – tomato sauce, mozzarella, spinach, and chicken folded into a beautifully prepared pizza dough. We’re not sure if it’s the fact that it was baked over a wood fire or consisted of such fresh ingredients that made it so delectable.

Wood Fired Pizza
Although regulars come back for other authentic Italian dishes, it is the wood fired pizza that lures first-time customers. Fat Clemenza’s pizzas are made from homemade dough, homemade pizza sauce, and hand-tossed by a master pizza chef from Italy (a job description we didn’t even know existed prior to learning more about this eatery). It is then baked in a wood burning oven at 900 degrees to enhance and seal the flavors. Favorites included the the Capricciosa, with domestic ham, spinach, hot salami, fire roasted peppers, caramelized onions, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and Vegetarian, with fresh tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, spinach, oregano, and mozzarella. Perhaps the only disappointment was the Prosciutto that tastes more like domestic ham than the expected dry-cured meat.

Pollo Milano
The sandwich selection is beyond impressive, but the Pollo Milano is in a league of its own. We must begin with the Italian bread on which it is served. It is the perfect combination of flaky and soft. On that bread is stacked grilled chicken breast, delicately caramelized onions, fresh spinach, and mozzarella cheese. You’ll want to take your time to enjoy each bite.

Blue Sandwich
This dish is simple, but memorable. Italian roast beef is melded with caramelized onions and melted gorgonzola and served on Italian bread. We found ourselves forgetting about sides.

Choosing favorites from such an impressive menu is daunting and we haven’t even mentioned the traditional Italian desserts. May we suggest you take yours to go if you find that you’re too full after your Fat Clemenza’s meal? Location: 12273 US Hwy. 98, Destin, Florida

Insider Tips:
-If the sign of a great restaurant is a long line, then Fat Clemenza’s is truly remarkable. Reservations are recommended. 
-Dogs are welcome to sit with their owners in the outdoor seating area.