The feeling you get when walking into Red Door Lakeland is that of attending a good friend’s dinner party. A dim, cozy ambiance brought about by tables and booths situated comfortably on the wooden floors that look to be original, paned glass windows of another era, and plush pillows lining the intimate booths. Books on food and wine are casually stacked alongside a painting of a red door on the mantel above the fireplace.
Richard Deangelis, owner of Red Door used two words to describe his establishment–craft and integrity. From the servers, atmosphere, food, down to the beverages, these words ring true.
This is Red Door’s 10th year in business, just a blip in Deangelis’s time in the restaurant industry. Working in the business one way or another since 14 or 15 years old, he worked his way through college and into restaurant management. This New Hampshire native owned his first restaurant in his mid-twenties in Melbourne, Florida. After 6 years there, he took a restaurant consultant job in upstate New York.
Deangelis eventually moved to Connecticut where he started a wine company that he moved down to Florida. Once he got married and began having children, Richard decided he didn’t want to be on the road as much. This is when, in 2008-2009, he opened Red Door Wine Market at a different location in Lakeland.
It started with the thinking that retail would take center stage. Richard said, “We had a bar that we were going to use as a tasting bar, do classes, maybe host events. There was such a response to having a wine bar, we quickly kind of shuttled the retail aspect and became a full-on wine bar.” More and more food began to make its way onto the menu. They moved to a new location across from the Lakeland Public Library and Polk Museum of Art to a space that allowed them to become a full gastropub.
When they arrived in the current space, a patio was put in at the front of the restaurant. About 6 months ago, a covered porch was put in its place. The spacious porch is ideal to have a signature cocktail or two and enjoy the breeze coming off the lake across the street. Satiate your appetite with some American cuisine with a Red Door twist, like a Kale Caesar Salad made with Romaine and kale over an ‘egg in a basket’ complemented by their house-made Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan or their Brisket Meatloaf with wild mushroom Ragu served with stone-milled grits and a fried egg.
Everything at the Red Door with the exception of the bread, is made in-house, down to the ketchup and kimchi. Their beverage selection is a reflection of their commitment to that brand of integrity. “We think of ourselves as a craft restaurant where we meld all of our professional experiences and push them out. We didn’t invent the burger, we just think this is the way the burger ought to be,” says Deangelis.
Red Door Lakeland has a seasonally-changing menu, Deangelis notes that both he and Executive Chef Jason Boniface hail from the same area. “Growing up in the New England area, we were used to a 4 season, seasonal change,” said the owner.
When they start thinking on the atmosphere, their beverages, and their ever-changing menu, Richard goes into it with intent. “When your friends leave, when you’re done, when you’re walking back to your car, what do you want running through your mind? What is the important aspect of this dinner? We try to work backwards from that.”
This personal connection to everything done at the restaurant is mirrored by the owner’s commitment to the community. Red Door Lakeland supports local artists by adorning their walls with pieces of local art and will connect interested guests to the artist if they would like to purchase one. When we met with Richard, they were in the process of hanging art for Women’s Awareness Month. Even that painting of a red door above the fireplace was done by local artist, Mary Witte.
Deangelis is on the board for the Explorations V Children’s Museum and the sub-board for Art and Cultural Heritage at the Tourism Department. Because of the amount of work they do in the community, the restaurant has implemented a community program called “Red Door Cares,” which you can find out more about on their website.
“I believe in community,” said the owner, “One of the ways to judge the quality of the community you live in is by the art that it supports and how well it gives to those that need to be helped. Lakeland is by far the most giving community I’ve ever been associated with.”
Red Door Lakeland
733 E Palmetto St., Lakeland, FL 33801