Chef Emeril Lagasse's name is renowned the world over. With 13 successful restaurants under his belt and his own TV show, he didn't need to do anything more.
However, the chef opened his 14th restaurant on Aug. 26, and this one is in the community he now calls home — South Walton.
Lagasse told his wife he would never open a restaurant here, but he fell in love with the space, and when you fall in love, one tends to follow their heart.
"All of my restaurants are different," Lagasse told The Sun. "All of them are personal, like children. This menu is influenced by our coast."
Emeril's Coastal Italian is located at Grand Boulevard next to the movie theater and serves up Italian cuisine that is coastally inspired.
Lagasse totally gutted the space to make it his own, spending months in renovations as the community eagerly awaited the opening of the doors.
Lagasse's wife worked with Interior Designer Susan Lovelace for the coastal look that includes murals of the sea and fish to reflect the area.
The 8,000-square-foot space includes a large patio and seats around 200 people. Dining is available inside or out.
Lagasse describes the restaurant's menu as very light and clean — not overstated. The casual dining restaurant combines the rich and diverse tradition of Italian cuisine with the bountiful variety of fresh Gulf seafood and local ingredients.
All dishes are prepared in house and from scratch featuring a variety of seafood and homemade pasta, but it doesn't end there. Also find pizza, fish chowder, Cajun caviar bruschetta, crispy chicken liver, Tuscan roasted chicken, porterhouse steak, and braised lamb on the menu, and that's just a sampling.
"We have a daily large menu," said Lagasse.
The culinary team consists of Lagasse as executive chef and Frank Szymanski as chef de cuisine.
Lagasse's 15-year-old son also works at the restaurant and is learning the kitchen.
"I've never mentioned it to him. He decided to on his own," said Lagasse.
Diners may also recognize the famous chef cooking on the line when they visit.
"It has been fantastic and well received," the chef said.
The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. weekdays, and until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
"We consider Emeril's Coastal Italian an amazing addition to our group of premium restaurants," said Stacey Brady, director of marketing and communications at Grand Boulevard. "Having a world-class restaurant with such an iconic name attracts a lot of customers to the restaurant, as well as our town center. People get very excited when they see that Chef Emeril Lagasse is actually in the exhibition kitchen more often than not."