95 Laura Hamilton Blvd, Santa Rosa Beach, 850-267-2202 map

Tucked away in a quaint second floor space right on Scenic 30A in Gulf Place (Santa Rosa Beach) is a gem of a restaurant called Amoré – a pizzeria. Amoré … just love the way that rolls off the tongue and love is exactly what proprietors and local South Walton residents Amory and Lauren Basford put into their pizzeria- and trattoria-inspired cuisine and hospitality.

It had been a while since I ate at Amoré so I decided to stop in for lunch recently. They serve lunch and dinner but, with two boys at home to cook for every night, I have only been there for lunch as is the case with most restaurants I frequent these days.

I love the feel of this place – the decor is hip but not pretentious. Large floor to ceiling windows, lots ofAmore1 aluminum furniture, a serene light greenish-blue and black color scheme and hip art which adds a nice splash of color combine to make the space really inviting. In the spring, early summer and fall, diners must take advantage of dining al fresco on the large, covered terrace.

As fabulous as the decor is, though, what really brings me back to Amoré time and again is their food. A large menu you won’t find – as their tag says, it’s pizza – paninis – salads. But don’t let the limited menu fool you because what they do offer is all delicious. It’s one of those rare restaurants where you can’t order wrong.

For my lunch, I pulled an Andrew Zimmern and ordered more than one item. A pizzeria, their obvious specialty is their pizza so I ordered the Margherita – a 12″ hand-tossed pizza with diced roma tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella & marinara ($10) as well as one of my favorite comfort foods, a panini. I decided on this day to get the Pollo Tapenade – oven roasted chicken, fontina cheese, red onion & kalamata olive spread on hot pressed ciabata bread and served with a side of pasta salad ($9).

Both were so beautifully simple and delicious – hot, fresh, and made to order. A bread fanatic, I think I have identified one of their secrets – their pizza crust and ciabatta bread. I don’t know if they are homemade but they taste homemade. If I had to guess, the pizza crust has olive oil in it, or maybe even egg, giving it a desirable crumb – not cakey crumb – but more substance and a forgiving bite (read-not chewy) more so than a water/yeast/flour crust. And the ciabatta? Like many other things, there hasn’t been a ciabatta I’ve met that I haven’t liked. Fill it with chicken, cheese, onion and kalamata spread, slather on some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), toast it … need I say more??

Amory himself served me that day and, even though he was really busy, he made me feel right at home and I felt well taken care of. And no, I didn’t eat all of the pizza and panini in one sitting but under the right circumstances, definitely could have!

What makes Amoré stand out and what I really love about it is that their food is is definitely European-inspired as far as heaviness goes. You don’t walk out of lunch feeling like a stuffed pig in desperate need of a nap. Their ingredients are incredibly fresh and portioned perfectly. For the price, you just can’t beat it.

Check out all of their different combinations of pizzas. Although they do accommodate, please folks, do yourself a favor and get out of your comfort zone when you order one of their pizzas – you are missing out if you don’t! They have a few antipasti (apps) and salads as well to choose from and sell wine and beer, too.

Amoré is located at 95 Laura Hamilton Blvd in Gulf Place at the intersection of 30A & Hwy 393 in Santa Rosa Beach, above ResortQuest’s office. They are open daily except Tuesdays for lunch from 11am – 3pm and dinner from 5-10pm.

Reviewed by Jill Gaupin

Jill is die-hard foodie and a big part of her life revolves around eating, cooking, and drinking wine…oh, and talking about eating, cooking and drinking wine, too