Restaurant or nightclub? Marino owner wants Cocoa restaurant to be known for its cuisine

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COCOA, FLA. – Marino Biondini wants people to visit Marino’s, his Cocoa Village restaurant which opened in January, for its great Italian food and friendly atmosphere.

Chef Joel Lyons has created a menu of Italian specialties, with homemade sauces and fresh pastas. Craft cocktails, beer and wine are served in the 1900s bank building, which is elegant and welcoming with its high ceilings and second-floor gallery, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

What Biondini doesn’t want is for what happened in the early morning hours of March 12 to shape potential customers’ opinions of the restaurant.

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Late at night on Fridays and Saturdays, Marino transitions to El Secreto, a nightclub.

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In mid-March, a fight broke out in the club. Biondini said his security team pushed those involved outside and called Cocoa police. The fight continued in a nearby parking lot. Shots were fired. A 24-year-old man was injured and a 25-year-old man was arrested.

Biondini said he didn’t want to attract troublemakers. It has a four-person security team monitoring the crowd and plans to implement a dress code and metal detectors to prevent future trouble.

The club brings in people, mostly in their twenties and early thirties, to dance.

“We have a younger audience that wants to come and have a good time,” he said.

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The nightclub pays the bills while the restaurant gets a foothold, Biondini said, and that’s the restaurant he wants to promote.

“For me, it’s my life,” Biondini said. “If it doesn’t work, I have to start over.”

This is Biondini’s third attempt to operate a restaurant in a Harrison Avenue space that has housed a sports bar, Korean barbecue restaurant and fine dining establishment.

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He opened El Bodegon, a white-tablecloth restaurant serving Spanish and Basque cuisine, in 2017, after owning a restaurant of the same name for six years in Winter Park. Biondini said he gained a following of people who enjoyed paella and tapas such as coctel de camarones con salsa de queso (shrimp served with savory queso) and empanada.

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El Bodegon fell victim to COVID-19, but Biondini was undeterred. In August 2020, he helped open Tapa n Tacos, a more casual restaurant and bar. He kept some of the Spanish favorites but added craft cocktails and cheaper Mexican fare to the menu.

El Secreto, the weekend nightclub, opened at the same time.

Biondini fell out with a business partner and left Tapa n Tacos in September 2021. He returned to the property in January and renamed the restaurant Marino’s.

He had been the face of El Bodegon and Tapa n Tacos, greeting guests in the dining room and often taking and delivering orders. Friends told him, “Put your name on it so they know it’s you.”

Marino’s has taken on a distinctly Italian flavor, thanks to Lyons, who spent time at Genna’s Pizza and Amici’s in Melbourne.

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“Joel has created a menu that’s small, fresh and easy,” Biondini said. “He goes out and talks to the guests, cooks something just for them.”

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“It’s right up my alley,” Lyons said. “I have been cooking Italian dishes for 35 years.

A few of the Spanish favorites remain, including prawns with queso and pulpo con chorizo ​​and smoked octopus with chorizo ​​and potatoes. Paella will be offered occasionally as a special.

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Biondini also said he continues to make some of the cocktails he learned from Ben Jewel, who helped open Tapa n Tacos.

“We’ll have fresh margaritas on tap,” Biondini said. “Come for the food, stay for the drinks.”

Cocoa’s Wanda Shultz said she’s been supporting Biondini since coming to the area. He is an ambitious young man, she says, and she wants him to succeed. She recently visited Marino’s and was thrilled with the experience.

“The food was amazing, the drinks were perfect,” she said. “His new leader is on the way.”

Biondini is determined to do Marino’s job. When he opened El Bodegon, it was a family business, with his mother, wife and sister-in-law. His mother died, his brother and sister-in-law moved to Saint-Augustin. Then COVID hit.

“I was forced to step back and let someone else make the decisions,” he said.

Now he is focused on preparing fresh food and fresh cocktails, and building a team that will take good care of customers. The restaurant is open five days a week for dinner only, which means he and the staff have two days off and a chance for a normal life.

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“I feel like I couldn’t live without it,” he said. “I’m not throwing in the towel.”

by sailor is at 114 Harrison St., Cocoa Village. Hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The nightclub is open until 2am on Friday and Saturday.


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