The chefs at Cantina Toscana adhere to Mediterranean culinary traditions to bake and fry authentic regional cuisine rich with olive oil, peppers, seafood, and cheese. Meals commence with appetizers ranging from beef carpaccio to bacon-wrapped sea scallops splayed atop a bed of wilted spinach, just as they're naturally found on Italian shores. Entrees range from house specialties such as eggplant parmesan to pasta dishes including con frutti di mare, an aquatic medley of mussels, calamari, and undelivered mail to Atlantis. The saltimbocca alla romana partners parmesan risotto and broccoli gratin with pan-fried veal cutlets topped with parma ham and sage. Throughout the meal, diners swirl and sip glasses of wine, trying to discern the floral notes of pinot grigio and guess the age of pinot noir without asking to see its ID.
Fresh, high-end ingredients predominate at Vertoris Pizza House, a vegan-friendly Italian restaurant and pizzeria with gluten-free options whose 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. Nineteen 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.
The Italian Grill's chefs forge southern Italian entrees based on the family recipes of the restaurant's three founders, who hailed from Naples, Sicily, and Calabria. To re-create authentic Old-World flavors, the chefs rely on traditional cooking techniques to blanch imported Italian pastas and simmer their own housemade marinara sauce. After loading pizzas with up to 13 different toppings—including bacon bits, garlic, and spinach—they bake crusts in a wood-fired brick oven, which leaves them crispy on the outside and airy on the inside, much like the deep-fried balloons clowns sell when they run out of animal shapes. Lit by conical pendant lamps, the dining room's booth-lined walls leave ample space for occasional live entertainment, which can include accordion performances.
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.
Rico's Pizzeria introduces tongues to an abundance of casual Italian fare, including oven-fresh specialty pizzas and piquant garlic knots. The King Neptune pie smothers sea-based cravings with black tiger shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams, and the buffalo-wing pizza helps appetites take flight with mildly spiced tenders, mozzarella, and blue cheese or ranch dressing. For a feast of meat, patrons can snag a circle of the Carnivore, or for a bonding activity, family members can build their own pie from 24 available toppings and then trust-fall into it from the top of a shed.