People often arrive first as visitors to Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, but are often charmed by what they find to the point of seeding their future to become permanent residents. Such was the case for the owners of Espana, a Spanish restaurant serving dishes with Portugese and Brazilian influences. Roberto Pestana and his wife Marina visited Fernandina Beach overnight by accident when it became late on their way to Charleston from visiting family in south Florida (with three children) and they made a diversion to Amelia Island for the evening. By the time they left to continue their trip, the charm, lifestyle and ambiance of the historic town began calling them out of the more hectic and crowded lifestyle of south Florida.
Roberto learned the restaurant business from his mother and father who left the Portugese town of Madeira to work as professional chefs in Brazil. Later they opened their own restaurant in Newark, NJ while Roberto was still a child. Their specialty was traditional dishes made simply and well-prepared. His experiences there and the aesthetics and approach to good but simple cooking continue to guide his restaurant strategy. After retiring to Pompano Beach, his parents reversed their vow of no more cooking and opened Brazilian Tropicana. Roberto was studying accounting at Rutgers when his mother called to tell him of his father’s heart attack that would lead to his return to a restaurant career. He attended culinary school to see if practical experience could be enhanced even further.
A few years later, they decided to sell the Tropicana and look for a simpler lifestyle and location to raise their children. The accidental visit to Fernandina had set the seed and soon they were relocating and opening Espana. Offering a Tapas menu, salads and a variety of entrees, homemade desserts, various sangria options, port and other wines, Roberto and his wife provide a unique offering in the area and one that delights both visitors and guests of the Williams House. Only four blocks from the Inn, our guests are frequent visitors and are surprised to find such interesting cuisine in a small town. We had a guest this year who was really into tiramisu and had sampled them around the world. I mentioned that Deborah and I enjoyed the Espana version and thought it compared well to others we had tried. Our guest visited for dinner and informed us the next morning it was the best tiramisu he had any where in the world! When you visit with us at the Williams House, let us make a reservation for you at this unique and acclaimed restaurant.