Scampi Grill: Venerable restaurant’s better than ever

Of the many Italian restaurants on the Vero mainland, one we always look forward to visiting is the Scampi Grill.

After several years, its “new” home on 20th Street now seems as much of a fixture in the local dining scene as its former longtime quarters in Vero’s old downtown.

But it still seems hard to believe that the Scampi Grill’s founder, Dominick “Mimmo” Amelio, handed over the kitchen to his very creative executive chef son, Alessandro, more than a decade ago.

This past Wednesday brought one of those moments of déjà vu.

Arriving shortly after 7 p.m., who was waiting in the doorway to welcome us but Mimmo, who now on some evenings performs front-of-the-house duties for his son, greeting his many old friends.

We love seeing Mimmo, who by all appearances is going great.

But while we always used to enjoy his dishes (particularly his scampi preparations, after which the restaurant was originally named), we would be remiss if we did not report that the Scampi Grill offerings created by Alessandro have raised the bar another notch.

On this visit, our party of three decided to start with two appetizers: the Rhode Island clams ($12.95) and the baby artichokes “Francese” ($10.95).

The tender artichokes, lightly egg-battered with Italian herbs, were finished in a lemon caper butter sauce. Wonderful.But the little neck clams, sautéed with olive oil, roasted garlic and fresh herbs, were finished with a chardonnay butter sauce. Sensational.

Then for entrées, I had Alessandro’s cioppino ($34.95).

Our companion ordered the Scottish salmon ($31.45, and excellent), and my husband opted for ‘paccheri’ Bolognese with duck sausage ($27.95).

While the classic San Francisco cioppino is a fish stew, with a combination of seafood served in a tasty broth that can then be soaked up with a hearty bread, Alessandro’s riff on a cioppino was served in a perfectly spiced fra diavolo sauce over linguine pasta.

Not much sauce was left for mopping, but this was a great variation.

The paccheri Bolognese was similarly creative – a combination of freshly ground veal, port and beef sautéed with roasted pancetta ham, tossed in a tomato ragu with a large tubular pasta that suits the dish better than penne.

The secret ingredient in this dish was the roasted, house-made duck sausage – a $5 add-on and worth every penny.

By the time we finished these wonderful dishes, none of us had room for dessert, so we concluded the evening with espressos ($3.90).

Whether you try one of the specials or choose an old favorite – and whether you dine inside or out (it was too cool for the garden on the night we were there) – for creative Italian cuisine it’s hard to beat the Scampi Grill.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at Tina@VeroBeach32963.com.

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963. n

Scampi Grill

  • Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5 pm to 10 pm
  • Beverages: Beer & Wine
  • Address: 815 20th Street, Vero Beach
  • Phone: 772-563-9766

Photos by: Kaila Jones
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