One time a year and usually sometime in February Jim and I are fortunate enough to spend a totally blissful day with two of our favorite people in the whole world.
We met Mike and Judy Higgins when we were in our twenties and Jim was transferred by A&W Restaurants to Gaithersburg, Maryland to operate one of their busier restaurants in the highly trafficked Lakeforest Mall.
When we moved into a new luxury apartment complex called The Hunt Club we felt as if we were living the good life. We had everything we needed for our two children and ourselves to be comfortable.
Amalia, our oldest child, was a 2 1/2 year old toddler and Matthew was a 3 month old baby when we flew over the Potomac and past the Washington Monument into our new lives.
The only thing that I as a new mother lamented was that we had left our our family behind. I knew that Jim would be working a demanding restaurant management schedule and I could have very possibly become quite lonely and maybe even lose my mind.
Then, by the grace of God, Judy Higgins happened to be sunning at the Hunt Club Pool where her adorable children Errin, age 10, and Mikey, age 5, were swimming. I walked in with a stroller full of babies and a desperate need to have adult conversation.
Judy was born and raised in Minnesota and is still to this very day the kind of person that everyone would want as their best friend. Not only is she the salt of the earth, but as a educator for over thirty years Judy learned the fine art of listening and she has the ability and desire to try and understand the challenges others may be facing. She is also a woman of great faith in God and I learned much from her about how to live the life of a good Catholic and how to be a loving and attentive mother.
Michael is a graduate of West Point who served our country as an officer in Vietnam and went on to have a brilliant career as a successful businessman. He became the example that Jim wanted so much to follow of a husband and father that loves God, his wife and his children and worked hard at creating a great life for them.
Now, some thirty years later we are fortunate enough to spend that one wonderful day catching up. We talk for hours about our beautiful children and grandchildren.
Judy, who is an amazing cook, will prepare a lovely light lunch followed later in the day by dinner at one of their favorite spots in Bonita Springs Florida where they Winter each year.
This time we found ourselves enjoying one of the most remarkable meals we have had in a very long time at DeRomo’s in Bonita Springs at the Promenade Shopping Center. The owner, Frances J. Cuomo, has created a thriving Gourmet Market Restaurant and Catering business that anyone who is a veteran to the hospitality industry would have to admire.
Walking past Oak Barrels into the Tuscan inspired dining room it is immediately apparent that you are about to enjoy a delightful dinner.
Once seated at our very comfortable half circle booth our server whose name is Hugo appeared within a minute or two and offered to bring sparkling water while we looked over the menus. His smile was sincere and his personality was warm and upbeat with just the right amount of humor thrown in.
A server like Hugo makes us want to make him our poster server for our Hospitality Training Program at
The four of us began to peruse the wine list and cocktail menu as we are all of the mindset that there must be priorities in life.
I decided to have the house Pinot Grigio which at $7.50 a glass was a very nice wine at a great value. Jim ordered a the Highway 12 Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Valley and he found it to be full of intense black fruit with a hint of cocoa and a smooth finish.
Michael’s Chocolate Martini was served with a chocolate drizzle on the glass and included Chocolate Liquor, Bailey’s, Creme de Cocoa, Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka, Frangelico and a touch of cream. Judy’s Italian inspired craft cocktail looked refreshing in every way.
Hugo suggested an appetizer of Mozzarella de Buffalo, roasted red and green peppers and Prosciutto with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of Balsamic Vinegar glaze.
Jim and Judy were sold on the specials that were well described by our marvelous server and Judy ordered the Branzino which is a delicate white fish served with lemon caper sauce. Jim decided to order the veal chop which was tender, juicy and prepared to perfection.
Michael and I went the more traditional route and ordered two of their freshly made pasta dishes. I ordered the Carbonara with Pancetta, egg yolk, Parmigiana Reggiano and cream sauce. Michael selected the Ravioli Formaggio with house made jumbo cheese ravioli filled with Ricotta in a Rosso Aurora Sauce and was garnished with one of ‘Nona’s famous meatballs.
Each of us enjoyed our entree’s immensely and their was even a fair amount of sharing that occurred between Judy and Jim. However, Michael and I ate every last bit of our perfect pasta dishes on our own.
Needless to say we couldn’t even begin to entertain the idea of dessert, but if I had indulged the Profiteroles that are cream puffs filled with Chantilly cream and rolled in chocolate would have been high on my list.
The DeRomo’s website features a quote that certainly holds true for them and that is, “food is the way to the heart and our heart is in it.”
Mike and Judy Higgins will always hold a special place in our hearts and after last Wednesday nights dinner DeRomo’s will too.
What a passion. It was enjoyable seeing our friends from so many years back. We usually shared a dinner and food became a staple of our meeting along with several different styles of beverage. It was the best of the best situations. Great friends, great food, great wine and in this case we get to write about our get together.
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Patti Abate is the journalist while I, James Poling, get to assist her in completing the task of preparing her information and our meals. We are co-creators of TampaBayGivesRemarkableService.com and we are enjoying our work together. For information about other work we have completed you can check out our Hospitality Training Site at https://www.GiveRemarkableService.com
Thank you, Patti and Jim