Fresh, high-end ingredients predominate at Vertoris Pizza House, a vegan-friendly pizzeria whose three-cheese spinach-alfredo pie emerged victorious from the Second Annual Pizza Wars’ White Pizza Contest. Inspired by their triumph, the kitchen’s decorated chefs hurl homemade dough sky high before layering on whole-milk mozzarella and fresh tomato sauce. Eighteen specialty pizzas crisp up in a brick oven that also conjures stromboli and signature pastas, such as a baked ziti dusted with the same Italian breadcrumbs used for guiding disoriented tourists to the Sistine Chapel. With 33% less fat and no common allergens, Vertoris’ vegan cheese pairs nicely with gluten- and dairy-free crust options, ensuring palates of all particulars can partake in the pizzeria’s gourmet fare.
After honing his culinary skills in professional kitchens across Europe, chef Maurizio Colucci set up shop in Sarasota in order to treat Americans to the complex flavors of his native Italy. At his romantic eatery, he and his staff hand mix and form fresh italian sausage, toss gnocchi with savory bolognese sauce, and stuff shells with cheese and spinach until their belts no longer fit. Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas emerge from a wood-burning oven before they're whisked out to a covered patio, treating patrons to gourmet toppings ranging from capers to seafood.
Family pictures hang from exposed brick walls inside the dining room at Gio Fabulous, making it feel like you've been invited into someone's Italian kitchen. The pizzeria is one of four restaurants owned by the Gio brothers, who got their start more than two decades ago, selling home-baked bread to local restaurants. Today, it's the restaurants pizza crust recipe that takes center stage. The dough is made fresh each day, hand-tossed, and topped with fresh mozzarella, chunky tomatoes, Parma prosciutto, and more. Their authentic Italian dishes also include housemade gnocchi bolognese and spaghetti frutta di mare tossed in white wine sauce. Their culinary expertise helps them curate a wine and dessert list worthy of such entrees.
Papa Giorgio's prides itself on it's homemade bread served hot and fresh pizza with chef Pablo's made-from-scratch sauces and hand-tossed dough. Divided into two separate spaces, the dining room serves platters inside walls with murals depicting traditional Italian scenes, and the other side presents guests with a marble bar for beer and wine. For dinner, patrons can pair the eatery's northern and southern Italian fare with available beer and wine.
Like the wait staff at any laid-back, family-run Italian restaurant, the friendly servers at Filippo's Pizzeria are extremely likely to call you “hon” and keep up a lively banter with the chef. At the bar, regulars gather to sip cold beers and engage in conversation while nibbling on antipasti plates of cured meat. In the corner of the homey restaurant, a blackboard announces the daily specials and the homework due tomorrow.
That same casualness extends to the food, which delights with fresh, simple ingredients. Guests devour savory pies, hearty plates of carbonara, and tender veal cutlets inside the restaurant or out on the outdoor patio, which often hosts live music.
The salty breeze blows off Sarasota Bay, picking up a few notes of sweetness as it passes through the petals and boughs of Sarasota Bayfront Park. But it gets better: soon the scent of fresh baked pizza takes over, and with it the aroma of calzones and lasagna—with Bella Nonna in the center of it all.
Amid this delicious eddy of air currents sits the restaurant itself, a beachy gem with red exterior walls and covered outdoor patios hung with curtains. Strings of light run along the beams framing the patio, making the space appear to glow from within. Inside, the flavor of the Italian specialties matches the rest of the eatery's sensory promises as dishes such as shrimp scampi made with local giant Gulf shrimp arrive tableside. Bella Nonna's pizzas fit the bill too, with choices such as the custom Presto Pesto that combines the kitchen's own pesto sauce with grilled chicken, caramelized onions, and mozzarella.