Culinary masterminds at La Nostra Pasta craft classic Italian dishes and homemade desserts that sate appetites in an informal, welcoming ambiance. Foursomes debate whether tomatoes are fruits, vegetables, or alien spy technologies over an order of caprese salad, which buddies tomatoes up with buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves ($7.99). Pasta-seekers can sink forks into the three fromaggio penne with fontina, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese doused in cognac and tomato cream sauce ($10.95), and guests can traverse land and sea with the mare e terra, a 12-ounce grilled rib-eye steak accompanied by spicy shrimp skewers, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and merlot and tarragon butter ($18.95). Pastas and entrees waltz to tables with soup or salad, and they also dance well with a homemade dessert such as cannoli, a cylindrical pastry that makes a mean jazz flute when not occupied by citrusy ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, and pistachios ($4.25). Soft sconce lighting illuminates menus, and flower arrangements add hints of color at each wooden table.
By the time he was 20, Christian Zebier was serving as maître d'hôtel for a prestigious restaurant in Belgium. After a five-year stint teaching primary school, he realized that his heart lay in hospitality, and that children have terrible table manners. The first business Zebier began, Air du Temps, deployed an elite staff to serve such distinguished parties as the Belgian royal family.
Zebier stuffed his fine-tuned sense of hospitality into a suitcase and brought it to the United States, where he opened Brasserie Belge. He felt that Sarasota's open-minded, well-traveled residents could appreciate the traditional ambiance of a brasserie. The restaurant's attentive staff serves a menu of Belgian cuisine, such as Prince Edward Island mussels delivered fresh every morning and served with one of 12 styles of belgian fries. On the leather couches of the piano lounge, patrons enjoy Belgian beers, specialty martinis, and small plates.
When Gerald Bennett began work as head chef at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland, he was accustomed to whipping up dishes for celebrity clientele. But when the royal family of Dubai came to visit and he served them in their opulent suite, he never thought they'd ask him to leave with them as their personal chef. Since returning to the states and stepping into his role as the president of the Private Chef Association, Gerald has worked to bring his gastronomic prowess to the masses through Food Fun Adventure’s classes and tours. He passes along a visible passion for culinary fusion, which shines through in dishes blending French and Thai or American and German influences.
Culinary tours take participants to local sushi houses, steak houses, and bistros, each highlighting specialty dishes. When head chefs come out to greet their visitors, they often divulge culinary secrets and answer questions about curfew hours for free-range ingredients while doling out tapas and other small plates.
In a more hands-on culinary experience, customers gather in classes and learn to refine dishes based on a chosen theme. Using mostly local and organic ingredients in two kitchen classrooms, chefs show students how to craft delicacies such as scallion waffles with orange-zest chicken and tagine-roasted rack of lamb. In one kitchen, which doubles as an art gallery, knives flick through ingredients, and pots clatter at island stations and small burners. The company’s event center, Heaven, fills with chatter as up to 40 pairs of students filter in. Beneath projectors for screening chef demonstrations and documentaries about the life of a paring knife, separate kitchens equipped with ovens and burners fill with the bustle of creation, which gives way to reverent exhalations as patrons finally sample the fruits of their labor.
You'll never find a packet of dry spaghetti noodles, nor a bag of frozen ravioli, in the kitchen at Giuseppe's Ristorante. That's because the restaurant's Italian-born chef, Eduardo, insists on making every piece of pasta from scratch. He rolls out thin layers of eggy dough to make fresh ravioli, butterfly-shaped farfalle, and long, flat fettuccine noodles perfect for sopping up sauce or lassoing morsels from your date's dinner plate.
After Eduardo has cut and shaped these pastas, he serves them up with proteins such as calamari, salmon, or tender veal, and sauces such as marsala or creamy b?chamel. Just-baked pizzas, salads, and a selection of gluten-free pasta dishes round out the menu. Servers prepare coffee drinks, pour wine, and serve beer?including Italian imports such as Moretti La Rossa. For dessert, try the made-from-scratch zeppole pastry or the affogato, which pairs rich espresso with creamy ice cream.
Nina Lakatos and Lynn Morris, two actual girls, wanted to live healthier lifestyles. They tried combining juices and raw, plant-based vegan foods and discovered that they "made them feel fantastic." Their friends took notice of the duo's improved health and energy and became curious about how to live such a lifestyle. Being a professional chef and professional photographer, the two knew how to make good food and how to make their good food look good, too. So, they started Two Girls Food, making fresh juices and vegan entrees each morning from scratch and delivering them to customers around town. They also offer pickup service in the morning at two locations.
Former pro baseball player Shane William Rawley helms Shaner's Restaurant, where an arm that pitched 12 seasons in the major leagues now hoists menus of Italian and American food. The menu features burgers and sandwiches such as italian sausage and roast beef, alongside thin-crust pizzas such as the five-cheese white pizza and the supreme, boasting a medley of meat and vegetables. Sports games play on 14 high-definition televisions throughout the dining room, which also makes way for dancing powered by the tunes of a live DJ on Friday and Saturday nights.