Every now and then, a restaurant comes to South Florida and really creates a buzz in the community. Recently, Mojo has done just that. Since the restaurant opened just a few weeks ago, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the establishment, so I figured I’d give it a try.
Mojo was founded by Anthony DeMaio and Dominic Falcione, partners in business and life for nearly 30 years. “We first met in August of 1980 at Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City during a crap game,” DeMaio recalls. “Several months later we ran into each other at a local bar and have been together ever since.” The couple will celebrate their 30th anniversary in November.
Food has always been in Falcione’s blood. He travelled to Italy at 17 to apprentice at Sabatini's in Florence before graduating from the Restaurant School of Philadelphia in 1981. “I opened my first restaurant called the Little Rock Café with my sister Linda in 1984, which we sold in 1991.” He managed the infamous Splash Bar in New York City for a brief time before opening I Love Lucy’s Beach Grille in Margate, New Jersey.
DeMaio was born and raised in Atlantic City, NJ and attended college at St. Leo University on Florida’s west coast, where he majored in business and theater
In 1999 the couple purchased a home in addition to property which would eventually become the original Mojo. If that weren’t enough, they were hired to design and manage a 500-seat restaurant in Somers Point, NJ. “In 2006, we decided to sell Mojo, but spent another year and a half at Sails, our Somers Point location,” states Falcione. “After we parted ways from Sails we went back to our roots, I Love Lucy's.”
At that time, the couple began to vacation in Fort Lauderdale for months at a time. “We were really bored all winter, so we decided to search out a business opportunity,” states DeMaio. They closed on the property which houses Mojo in April and began design work in May. Mojo opened its doors just a few weeks ago and has been met with positive feedback by the community. “We believe we have created a casual elegant neighborhood restaurant/lounge. Our backgrounds, creative menu and spectacular customer service is our recipe for success,” states Falcione.
The couple are hands-on operators. DeMaio handles all business transactions and serves as host, while Falcione is Mojo’s executive chef and resident artist. All artwork seen in the restaurant are his creations.
Mojo's menu is a cross between many cultures. “We call our food ‘New American Eclectic’ cuisine. The menu was designed to be fresh, interesting and healthy,” states DeMaio.
With only a few weeks under their belt, Mojo is already participating in charitable ventures. “On Friday August 20, we are donating 10% of our proceeds to SMART Ride for any client who makes a reservation using 'SMART Ride' when they book. In addition, Mojo will host their first GLBX After Hours event on August 26 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Mojo offers happy hour specials Monday through Friday from 4:00- 7:00 p.m. as well as live music and DJ performances throughout the week.
As guests enter Mojo, they are greeted by a friendly staff and instantly notice the Key West meets South Beach décor.
For starters, my guest Andres and I chose to sample the fig and orange glazed Japanese eggplant as well as the fried calamari. The fig and eggplant dish was wonderful, light and contained a perfect balance of flavors, ranging from the sweetness of the figs to the saltiness of the feta cheese which was sprinkled throughout. The dish is served with three wedges of flatbread and is a healthy option for those counting calories.
Next, we tried the fried calamari with Japanese seven spice, sweet Thai chili and lime. I am usually not a fan of fried calamari on its own, but the Asian-style preparation of this dish made it more tasty that the traditional version. Some other interesting selections include the baked escargot with artichoke hearts, feta, grape tomatoes, garlic butter and white wine as well as the spicy jumbo lump crab with sambal aioli, baby greens, crispy wontons and 12 year old balsamic glaze.
To stick with a healthier dinner, we decided to try one of Mojo’s specialty salads. Chef Dominic recommended the caramelized goat cheese salad made with violet mustard, oranges, sake plums, almonds, mixed greens and a guava citronette. Both Andres and I adored this selection. The marriage of the plums and oranges with the creaminess of the goat cheese was perfect. And the guava citronette was not overpowering, but yet complimented the flavors in the dish.
For our entrees, we ordered two of Mojo’s most popular dishes. First, the Irish organic salmon came grilled and served with an orange ginger glaze, wasabi mash and Asian vegetables. The fish was tasty and contained a nice char from the grill, although I found the vegetables slightly under seasoned and used more for presentation than taste.
Second, we tried the pan roasted duck breast sautéed with red kraut and apples, raspberry butter and a creamy cauliflower and goat cheese puree. Never before have I seen duck so perfectly cooked. It was so tender that at times, we thought we were eating a filet mignon. The raspberry butter added just the right sweetness to the dish, while the cauliflower puree helped to add to the dish’s uniqueness.
Finally, for dessert, we opted for the grilled coconut pound cake with sautéed peaches and blueberry syrup topped with vanilla bean ice cream. The warm cake was delightful, as were the sautéed peaches. What we liked most about Mojo was their use of fresh fruits in many of their dishes.
For more information, please visit Mojofl.com or call 954-568-4443 for reservations.