The Thirty-A Review January 2021

d i n i n g

Lola Coastal Italian b y J e s s i c a H o l t h a u s B a d o u r

B uild it and they will come… But will they still come if there’s a pandemic? Turns out, in this case, they will. At least that’s been the result so far with Lola Coastal Italian, open in Rosemary Beach since June 2020. Today it’s one of the best casual dining spots on 30-A, but the concept nearly didn’t come to fruition after the lease was signed in February. “We struck a deal to cut the space down and begin building out the restaurant,” says Chef Tom Catherall. “Halfway through, every- thing was shutting down [due to COVID-19] and we had to decide if we should power through or cut our losses.” Quite the timing. But Catherall says he and wife Lisa made the right decision to forge ahead with the project. And since Lola opened its doors, momentum has gained rapidly. Tom’s name on the marquee helped with initial recognition; those familiar with Catherall’s restaurant empire in Atlanta couldn’t believe a new location had popped up here in the Panhandle. Those who didn’t know about his

The restaurant prides itself on five-star food with quick and easy service—something you can appreciate after a day at the beach or when dining out with the kids. Guests order at the counter and pick up drinks, while food orders are run from the kitchen without formal table service. “This is the first time I’ve done this type of ser- vice at a restaurant and it really works,” Catherall explains. “I’m very happy with everything here right now, and the guests keep coming back.” Lisa helped with the restaurant’s beach-chic design. Working front of the house, she aims to speak to every customer, ensuring the dining experience is top-notch. “Lola is casual but elegant,” she describes. “You can walk in here dressed off the beach, or ready to start the night for a bachelorette party.” On top of great food, there’s daily happy hour specials with a stocked wine list and full bar. Guests can enjoy live music from local guitarist Jim Couch Thursday to Saturday outside. The rest of the time, 70s pop music keeps the vibe fun right through closing time. The restaurant’s beach-chic atmo- sphere is casual but elegant. While the winter

award-winning reputation (he’s one of only 67 Certified Master Chefs nationwide) have immediately become familiar. If you’re curious about the restaurant’s namesake, it’s inspired threefold: By Catherall’s former Lola Bellini Bar in Atlanta, famous 50’s Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, and the song Lola by the Kinks. “Tom always said he was a rock

season this year may bring more unknowns, Lola Coastal Italian plans to remain open year-round. If you’re a local, be sure to men- tion it when you place your order (Florida res- idents get a 10% local discount). Chef Catherall has plans to deliver his

Woodfired Pizza Oven

star in another life,” Lisa says with a laugh. “He’s a rock star in the kitchen instead of on stage.” Customers agree, touting the food as the best on 30-A. Yelp.com mirrors that sentiment with over 25 five-star reviews; not only for the food, but also the staff and service. “You’re only as good as the last meal you served,” Catherall says. “I’ve got medals and awards out the wazoo; but that doesn’t matter. If you use quality ingredients and affordable pricing, people will come, and that’s what I’ve built my reputation on.” As for the seafood spin, the chef has worked with fish his entire 50+ year career. While he’s known for Asian and Chinese influences, the Gulf Coast offers a Full Service Bar

woodfired pizzas within a 3-mile radius here on 30-A throughout the winter, so be sure to give a honk (and place an order) when you see the Lola scooter zipping through town. Lola Coastal Italian is located at 10343 E County Hwy 30A in Rosemary Beach, open daily for happy hour and dinner. They offer dine-in, curbside pickup, and no-contact delivery. See the current menu and daily hours at cheftomcatherall.com, call (850) 541- 9440, email cheftomcatherall@gmail.com, and follow on Facebook.

plethora of fresh options to put into menu staples, like ever-popular peel & eat shrimp, and daily specials such as local snapper and grouper. Then there are Italian must-haves: meatballs, fresh pasta with homemade sauces of your choice, classic chicken parm, and woodfired pizzas. The dough is made from scratch each morning using imported double-zero flour, meats, and cheeses from Italy—and the pizzas sell out daily. While customers say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted, equal orders of the fresh pasta are flying out of the kitchen, too.

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