In my youth, there was a song, sung by Maria Muldaur.
Midnight at the Oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads
Heaven's holding a half-moon
Shining just for us
Let's slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust
Italian Food Company, located on the way to Key West is that kind of oasis. A wonderful place to stop for a meal and, if you think you’ve stumbled onto an Italian town along the way, it’s easy to understand. The restaurant’s website boasts, “Where everyone is like family, and everything is imported from Italy with love.” Judging from our visit, it’s not just a boast, it’s a reality. Italian Food Company highlights authentic regional Neapolitan and Roman cuisine featuring appetizers, pizzas, pasta, entrées, and desserts.
Owning a restaurant brand was not in Tony and Isis Wright’s original plans, but they have found their niche. They have an emotional connection with Italy and found the opportunity to bring a bit of it to the Florida Keys with family recipes and imported ingredients, and their staff dotes on you like an Italian Nonna.
The selection of appetizers is mind-boggling. Try montanara, a Neapolitan street food consisting of fried pizza dough, which IFC serves with two different sauces; the hearty Bolognese sauce topped with Parmigiano, or Pomodoro topped with mozzarella and basil. Other appetizer options include arancini, bruschetta, meatballs, and antipasto platters. Of course, there is also the option of splitting their amazing Neapolitan pizza, but they are so perfectly prepared; that you won’t want to share.
Entrée options also feel like you’re at Nonna’s house with such Italian-American pasta favorites: penne ala vodka, rigatoni Bolognese, gnocchi, penne with pesto sauce, fiocchi di pera (pasta stuffed with pear and cheese in a light cream sauce with honey and almonds), farfalle in a white sauce with diced ham, a Sicilian take on rigatoni with eggplant, pomodoro sauce and ricotta salata, penne al pomodoro, spaghetti al’ amatriciana, and, of course, lasagna. Many of these dishes are available with meat, chicken, or shrimp, as well.
Protein-based dinners include more classics, most served with a side of pasta, chicken Parmigiana, fettuccini Alfredo with chicken, and lobster ravioli with shrimp. For those looking for a quick bite for lunch or a light dinner, check out the calzones and boccas, a twist on the panini featuring pizza bread overflowing with Italian fillings.
Even if you need to pack up half your meal, leave room for dessert. Whatever isn’t made in-house is imported from Italy and each one is delicious. Cannoli, triple chocolate mousse, Nutella pizza, strawberry cheesecake, profiterole, ricotta with pistachios and honey (very Italian!), and the best of all torta della nonna (a dense poundcake-like confection that is more than mildly addictive).
There is a surprisingly diverse wine list, with options by the bottle or glass. Although there is limited seating inside, if the weather permits, you’ll want to enjoy the deck or garden level, which features a vintage Fiat parked nearby. There is a second location in Islamorada that has a more expansive menu, with higher-end appetizers and pasta, as well as a heartier list of entrées such as grilled lamb or veal chops, salmon, traditional Italian chicken and veal dishes (saltimbocca, marsala, etc.), and a mixed grill.
Italian Food Company
98070 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo