Grandmother Josephine would be proud. Her passion for cooking and down-home, kitchen-table hospitality lives on at a new Jacksonville restaurant.
Dedicated to his late paternal grandmother — Josephine Lois “Jo” Gill Floyd — Josephine, the new Italian-American restaurant at 3563 St. Johns Ave. in the Shoppes of Avondale, offers fresh-from-scratch bread, pasta, signature entrees, salads and desserts made in-house with many featuring locally sourced ingredients.
“Josephine is a vision born from fond family memories, inspiring travels, and countless conversations,” owner Josh Floyd told the Times-Union.
As well as celebrating innovative cuisine, Josephine features the works of local artists such as one-of-a-kind paintings, prints and other unique decor.
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From the menu to decor, Josephine is an upscale restaurant intended to be a destination, Floyd said.
Floyd along with Executive Chef Zach Preece and Chef de Cuisine John Magsino created a menu that accentuates flavor, presentation and sophistication without being pretentious.
“We’re doing Italian food but we’re definitely not a traditional Italian restaurant. … You’ll find some traditional undertones in some of our approach and in some of our sauces. But we’re also doing things that are a little bit cheeky in a way where we’re crossing cultural lines,” Floyd said.
If they did traditional Italian, he said they’d be competing against all the other traditional Italian restaurants.
“What is different about us is we’re taking the art of Italian cooking and Italian ingredients and really expanding the way they are prepared,” Floyd said.
Signature entrees include:
- Josephine Rigatoni ($24) featuring a Calabrian vodka sauce, la tur and pecorino romano
- Carbonara di Mare ($27) showcasing squid ink spaghetti, octopus bacon, Parmigiano and black pepper
- Pinwheel Lasagna ($26) with roast fennel sausage ragu, fontina, Parmigiano and basil
- Roast Chicken ($34) featuring anduja-stuffed leg, roasted breast, peperonata, polenta and jus gras
- Ribeye Steak Pizzaiola ($42) with grape tomatoes, cubanelle, wild mushrooms, oregano and jus
- Kampachi ($38), also known as yellowtail or amberjack, with roman gnocchi, semi-dried tomatoes, crispy capers and salsa verde
The restaurant also offers snacks such as two types of upscale Pizza Rolls ($12), including fungi (wild mushrooms, fontina and roast garlic cream) and muffuletta (mortadella, tapenade, whole grain mustard and arrabiata). Antipasti options include sticky ribs ($14), Burrata ($17) and Carpaccio ($22).
Desserts ($8-12) include housemade gelato, olive oil cake, tiramisu and signature Torta Tenerina, featuring tart cherry, almond brittle and amaretto chantilly.
Josephine’s beverage program includes a drink menu of martinis, negronis, signature cocktails and craft beers; a wine list largely featuring Italian and French wines; and coffee and espresso.
Grandmother’s legacy lives on
Josephine Floyd lived in Fernandina Beach before retiring from the Nassau County school system to Blackshear in Southeast Georgia. Her passions included growing her own vegetables, playing Scrabble, reading and cooking for her family.
Floyd described his grandmother as “a great home cook.” While her cooking was more Southern-style dining, Josephine the restaurant will be Italian-American cuisine because that is his passion,” he said.
She was 86 when she passed away in November 2020. But her legacy will live on through the cuisine as well as the hospitality of her namesake restaurant.
“To pay homage to her is just very special,” Floyd said of the efforts to replicate the warm sense of family and hospitality she offered to everyone.
“I remember such fond memories of sitting in her kitchen, family being around and playing games and having such great conversations. I just wanted to pay a lot of respect to her,” he said.
Floyd also said he’s been inspired by his experiences while traveling to culinary destinations such as Brooklyn and New York City, San Francisco, Nashville and Denver.
Transforming restaurant dream into reality
Although Josephine is Floyd’s first concept, he is no stranger to the restaurant business.
Floyd, 41, has worked about 15 years in the restaurant industry in a variety of roles, including beverage manager at Biscotti’s right across St. Johns Ave. from Josephine. He previously worked at Taverna in San Marco.
The 5,200-square-foot restaurant will seat 100 people — both inside and outdoors. It’s partitioned into spacious sections: the main dining room, bar area, a lounge area in the secondary dining room and a private dining room. In addition, there is a wine room.
It bears absolutely no resemblance to Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar, its predecessor that closed in May. Floyd completely renovated, remodeled and painted the interior to create an airy space with lots of natural light streaming in through the windows.
The decor features a Murano glass chandelier and wall sconces hand-crafted in Italy, 80-year-old street lamps from Paris and a custom 650-pound table that Floyd had built from teak wood to serve as a community table.
“We want people to have that big city feel when you walk in … but once you’re inside we want you to feel like it’s just a neighborhood restaurant because that’s just what it is,” Floyd said.
Initially, Josephine will be open for Aperitivo Hour and dinner daily. Lunch and weekend brunch will be added in the coming weeks, Floyd said.
Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. The daily Aperitivo Hour will be 3 to 6 p.m. In addition, there will be late-night offerings from 10 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, according to the restaurant’s website.