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The Legends That Left Us

Remembering Prominent Destin Restauranteurs and Servers

Robert Allen “Uncle Bob” Morris of Marina Café  

Uncle Bob was a Destin fine dining staple. Since he moved to Destin in the early 1980s, Uncle Bob could be found serving in any number of Destin’s finest restaurants. Those at Marina Café have a soft spot for Uncle Bob.    

“He worked here when it first opened in 1988, then he worked up and down the road a little bit, but then he came back here in 2018,” said Marina Café Office Manager Judy Altilio. “He was the epitome of fine dining; a pressed shirt, ties that matched his socks; he was very prideful of his profession.”    

Co-workers and customers remember Uncle Bob’s wit, his obsession with The Grateful Dead and his vast knowledge of fine wine.    

“He always wore Jerry Garcia ties with matching socks, and he was a great Sommelier,” said Marina Café Server Troy Klamerus. “Everybody learned from his wine knowledge because he took the time to teach people.”   

Uncle Bob had a storied past, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest; he joined the Navy and served in the Vietnam War. Later, he worked in the logging industry during the summer and began sailing in the winter. He eventually wound up in Destin where he decided to stay.   

Harriet Huntress Crommelin of Café 30A 

Trailblazer, visionary, a force to be reckoned with; these are all words used to describe the late Harriet Huntress Crommelin, founder of Café 30A. A forward-thinking restauranter, Harriet moved to the Emerald Coast in 1995 and opened Café 30A.   

“She lived in Montgomery and owned a restaurant there, and she would always come down here to vacation,” said Café 30A Co-Owner Jackie Maliszewski. “In the early ‘90s, she tried to get a reservation at Creole's and couldn’t. She thought, ‘Wow, this place needs another restaurant!’”  

In May of 1995, Harriet officially opened Café 30A in Seagrove. Harriet’s vision was for an upscale restaurant where everyone felt welcome.   

“She always wanted to appeal to all crowds and all ages,” said Jackie. “Her motto was “Consistently Delicious.”  

Although Harriet did not have children of her own, her employees consider her the matriarch of Café 30A.   

“She was our work mom and my mentor,” Jackie said. “A lot of people say that Café' 30A was a place where you were welcomed; a place that felt like coming home.” 

Mark Anton of Borago 

Mark Anton and Michael Dragon, co-owners of Borago Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, met right out of culinary school in 1992. The two chefs graduated from Johnson & Whales University and ended up at the same restaurant in Charleston, North Carolina. The friends lived together and then parted ways for a year before meeting up again at a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama.    

“We were together at a restaurant called Azaleas for two and a half years, then one of the people in management brought us here to 30A,” Michael said. “We saw a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of the restaurant, called about it, bought it and been here for 24 years now.”   

When Mark passed away in July of this year, it left a huge hole for the entire Borago family.   

“He just had a big heart; a big soul and I think the biggest thing that he and I were proud of was the family atmosphere here,” Mark said. “We treat everybody like family." 

When it came to the restaurant, Mark and Mike ran everything together. They came up with the menu together and had a joint vision that made the restaurant succeed.    

“They say you meet people that touch your life, and Mark was that for me, he was special,” Mike said. “He’s going to be sorely missed for sure. He was someone that everyone remembered.” 

Pino Rella of La Famiglia  

Family was everything to Pino Rella, so much so that he named his Destin restaurant La Famiglia, “The Family” in Italian. Pino moved his family from Rome to Destin in 2009 and quickly built a reputation for authentic Italian cuisine with a family atmosphere. Along with his wife Stefania, and his three daughters Francesca, Michela and Valentina, the Rella family worked together to bring true Italian flavor to Destin. 

“My dad wanted the American dream,” Francesca said. “In 2000, he decided to make it happen. He came to America to look around and he looked in Florida. He loved the sun; he loved the ocean, and he loved fishing. We grew up in a little village near Rome and we had all our businesses and our house there, but we decided to close everything and move here.” 

Pino and his family frequently visited Italy, and it was during a solo back to Rome for Easter this year, that the Rella’s got news that their patriarch had passed away.  

“My father sadly left without notice. He left a lot and he left too early,” Francesca said. “He was a stubborn man, but really kind. He was a typical Italian man, always charming and joking; he laughed until the last moment.”

Over the past 14 years, La Famiglia has become a staple for Italian cuisine in Destin. Those in Italy remembered him as a gentle giant, bar owner, former soccer player and coach. Destin remembers him as a welcoming face, ready to make every customer in his restaurant smile.  

“He was always talking to customers and every time he saw a kid, he would bring them to the back and have them make a pizza and make it a heart shape,” Francesca said. “Surprisingly lots of people and customers from the restaurant reached out to us to say sorry about my father." 

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