Ponte Vedra welcomes Nona Blue


Hundreds of local residents turned out to celebrate the grand opening of Nona Blue last week, marking the latest restaurant to open in Ponte Vedra’s burgeoning Sawgrass Village.

The restaurant’s Sept. 14 grand opening was preceded by a VIP reception the night before. Guests walked the red carpet and posed for photos with PGA Tour golfer Graeme McDowell and his Nona Blue founding partners Joe Davi and Bill Bona. Inside, guests enjoyed cocktails and generous samplings of the restaurant’s appetizers, including firecracker shrimp, fried calamari, “Mama’s meatloaf” sliders, flatbreads and more.

The following day, McDowell and his partners held a formal ribbon cutting ceremony to inaugurate their second Nona Blue location.

“It’s so amazing,” McDowell said of joining the Ponte Vedra community. “I’ve played many PLAYERS Championships here.”

In addition to representatives from the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, the Nona Blue team was joined by former New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, who accepted a $15,000 donation for his Tom Coughlin Jay Fund representing all the gratuities the Nona Blue staff collected during their “Practice with a Purpose” soft opening.

“We were looking for a local charity to support and what I found out about the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund really resonated with me,” McDowell said.

Coughlin, in turn, thanked the Nona Blue staff for donating their gratuities to his foundation to help children battling cancer.

“What a wonderful thing to come into the community and give back,” Coughlin said. “That’s the first thing they did!”

A dream fulfilled

The opening of the Ponte Vedra restaurant follows the 2013 opening of the first Nona Blue restaurant in Orlando. According to McDowell, the restaurant’s name came from his participation in the Tavistock Cup: As a member of the Lake Nona team, McDowell wore a blue jersey while competing against the red-clad Isleworth team anchored by Tiger Woods.

After passing on a previous opportunity to own a restaurant several years earlier – and regretting it – McDowell said he wasn’t about to let the Nona Blue opportunity pass him by.

“I had this vision of walking into my own restaurant.”

Added Davi :“This was a dream between the three of us and our family members,” he said, noting that two critical team members – his wife, Candace, and chef Miguel Hernandez – have been with him for 15 years. “There’s just tremendous passion here.”

Davi said he hopes to build a local following for Nona Blue through word of muth.

“I’ve never advertised,” said Davi, who has been in the restaurant business for decades. “It’s our job to execute from plate to plate and from cup of coffee to cup of coffee and let the world advertise for us. Our job is simple: Don’t fail to execute at the table.”

In addition to the regular menu, he noted, Nona Blue has 250 rotating “off-menu” items that will give regular patrons a wide variety of options from which to choose, including the freshest seafood available.

“The tuna we’re going to serve today (Wednesday),” he said, “was swimming in the ocean on Saturday.”

In addition to visiting Nona Blue for the menu, patrons may also get an occasional glimpse of McDowell, who said he enjoys meeting people and hearing about the positive dining experiences they’ve had at his restaurant.

“I’ll be endeavoring to spend more time here in Ponte Vedra.”