At Terra & Acqua, Owner and Chef Simone Parisi creates a casual, modern dining experience with authentic Italian cuisine inspired by land and sea.
Located in Sea Grove Town Center in St. Augustine Beach, Terra & Acqua (translation “land and water”) is one of the area’s newest additions to an ever-growing and refining restaurant scene. Opened in the spring of 2015, this family-owned and operated 200-seat eatery plus outdoor courtyard offers fresh, locally-sourced ingredients transformed by chef and owner Simone Parisi into authentic New World flavors.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Born in Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Parisi’s culinary creations have always been heavily influenced by his familial roots. His father’s side hails from Tuscany while his mother grew up in Emilia-Romagna, a region in Northern Italy. “My mom had three sisters,” Simone explained. “I grew up with this authentic pasta making experience from one side and then the influence of cooking with seafood, steak and wild boar from the other side. It was the best of both worlds.”
As a medical student on his way to becoming a dentist, Simone was called on by his homeland for a one-year mandatory military service. During that time, he worked in a firehouse kitchen under a Michelin starred chef. It was there that Simone abandoned his dreams of dentistry and began exploring a career in cuisine.
“My mom was a marketing director for Conad grocery chain,” said Simone. “Part of my training in Florence was that I worked in every department. I would do six months with a butcher in town, six months in produce and so forth. I also took smaller baking and pastry courses in Italy and eventually owned my own delicatessen.”
Following a move to the United States in 1997, Parisi settled in Denver, Colo. and opened two restaurants. The first, appropriately named Parisi, was established in 1998 and has been regularly named as the best pizzeria in the city. The second, Firenze a Tavola, which translates to “Florence at your table,” was opened in 2006 and has made a name for itself as one of the area’s top fine dining locales.
“I know Italian cuisine like I know my Italian wine,” Simone explained. “This is what I know how to do. Over the past 18 years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cuisine and techniques. Cuisine is always evolving. I like to create the traditional with a twist.”
After visiting St. Augustine in 2010 while on vacation with his family, Simone knew it was time for a change. Less than a year ago, Simone and his wife, Monica, and two young sons, Matteo and Luca, chose a large restaurant space in the Nation’s Oldest City with an emphasis on catering to the locals.
“I fell in love with this city at first sight,” said Simone. “Coming from Europe where everything is old and people are always on the street walking, St. Augustine is the perfect place for our family. We’re 45 minutes from the airport, 50 minutes from horse country and right by the ocean.”
During their trips, the Parisis would dine regularly at eateries like Cap’s On The Water, The Floridian, Culinary Outfitters and Casa Maya. While they fell in love with each and every restaurant mentioned, it was evident that the area was in need of a “really good, modern Italian restaurant” as Simone likes to put it.
“We had bought a house in Sea Grove, and during one of our visits noticed a sign on the building where The Groove Café had been,” the chef explains. “We weren’t ready to open a restaurant yet, so passed on the opportunity. Then Mermaid Café opened in the space for a few months.” After that eatery closed, it was time for Simone to make his move. “I was a bit nervous about their being so many restaurants that had closed in the same location,” he admits. “But I trust our concept as we’ve been really successful in Colorado, and decided to go for it. Today, Terra & Acqua has become a fusion of everything I’ve learned up until now.”
KEEPING IT LOCAL
Though he still owns his two restaurants in Denver, Simone’s focus over the past 10 months has been building Terra & Acqua into a St. Augustine favorite. “A lot of locals come here,” said Simone. “I picked this location as a place for families to get together with large portions and an ever-changing range of specials.”
Simone buys from local seafood and meat purveyors and even allows them to dictate what specials he’ll be serving that night. From regional wild boar to his signature double stuffed pork chops to grouper pappardelle, the menu is an explosion of authentic flavors refined from decades of Italian tradition.
“I still get to Italy at least once a year for food and wine shows and to visit friends and family,” explained Simone. “I consider myself self-made. School is really important, but the passion for learning is more.”
ON THE MENU
Fusing traditional Italian fare with local and season ingredients, Terra & Acqua has something for everyone. There are plenty of gluten-free options such as Carpaccio, Caprese and Polpo Alla Griglia, a charred octopus salad with potato and green beans, as well as vegetarian items like Margherita wood-fired pizza and Ravioli Di Zucca, butternut-squash ravioli with a brown butter, sage and balsamic glaze. An extensive lunch menu featuring various gnocchi dishes and other authentic Italy-inspired, homemade pastas has made Terra & Acqua a favorite for takeout.
Terra & Acqua
134 Sea Grove Main Street