One Oak Over the Line
Just across the state line in Little River, Chianti South offers a picturesque setting, an award-winning wine list and authentic Italian fare.
I had passed Chianti South on more than a few of my many trips across the line from southern Brunswick county into the Palmetto State. The place is actually just across the state line in Little River on Highway 17 South. But either because of the time of day — or the day itself — it never looked open when I passed.
It looked pretty, mind you, snuggled under and sheltered by massive live oaks festooned with Spanish moss, but never open. Friends had waxed practically poetic about their visit, so I vowed that one day we’d try it, if we could ever catch it open for business.
And last night it was. Good thing, too, as we had reservations and discovering it closed would have been a double bummer. But Chianti South welcomed us with open arms — as did those huge, Spanish moss-decorated live oaks.
I don’t know why, but something about those trees speaks to me. The trees did indeed seem to be protecting this former house, portions of which are 110 years old. And, as fate would have it, it’s currently owned by a former Jersey guy — a retired state cop, to be exact.
Frank Letino, a Hammonton, New Jersey, guy, went from learning about crooks to learning how to cook as he perfected his culinary skills. He personally trained his current chef, Felipe Morales, and if our food was any indication, Morales’s training — and therefore Letino’s tutelage — was superb.
Managed by Joe McDermott, Chianti South has a lot of Southern history and charm, an award-winning wine list and a superlative, efficient and attentive waitstaff — like Amanda, the veteran of the server corps with 19 years of experience. If there’s something she doesn’t know about the place or the food, it’s because it’s not yet known to anyone.
Chianti South apparently has a loyal following, too, so don’t be surprised if it’s tough to get a dining seat at the small bar so many choose to visit. But there was ample seating on our visit, including on the large wraparound, enclosed porch that has little private rooms offset for more celebratory or intimate events.
Our friends Dave and Eileen (also Jersey transplants and, like us, glad to be gone) began the night with an Antipasto Misto that contained a varied selection of fruit, fish, meat, aged Provolone and greens and was large enough for all four of us to enjoy. I’d have taken a picture, but it didn’t last long enough to pose for any. It was served with an incredible, house-baked bread that was soft, warm and delicious, which, considering it comes from Roma in Jersey, should surprise no one. Jersey may have its problems, but Jersey knows bread and pizza like few other states.
Dave and I each ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to start, and, in a neat touch, both arrived in authentic Sierra Nevada glassware.
But their wine pedigree bears special mention. Believing that a great wine complements a great meal, Chianti South is the only establishment in the Myrtle Beach area to have won Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 18 years running. If you’re a connoisseur of the grape, you’re likely to find lots to enjoy on this wine menu, and it’s likely not going to have a New York/Paris price tag attached.
After my initial beer, I opted for the house Chianti (natch!) to accompany my Scaloppine di Vitello alla Marsala, which was simply perfect. Dave had the same and agreed. The ladies each had white wine, Eileen to accompany her Gamberi e Capesante Fra Diavolo (raved about it) and the Missus to enjoy with her Melanzane all Parmigiana, which was incredibly good (she said) and came in such a large portion, the doggie bags came in a Great Dane size.
There was no dessert menu save for the one that’s in Amanda’s head. But let her share it with you, and after you get the Tiramisu and the Tartuffo, you can share it with your tablemates … if they deserve it.
The Pasta “Fazool” (as Chianti South spells it on their website) is also really outstanding. But how it tastes matters far more than how it’s spelled.
And at Chianti South, it all tastes good.
Want to go?
2109 U.S. Highway 17, Little River, SC