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.
With its cheery red awnings, cool marble tabletops, and bustling coffee bar, Caf? Americano wouldn't be out of place on the narrow side streets of Europe's great capitals. Instead, it brings that same sense of continental sophistication to the artsy avenues of Sarasota's historic Five Points neighborhood. Here, diners pass the breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours with Mediterranean cuisine ranging from prosciutto and gorgonzola omelets to classic steak frites and grilled whole sea bass. As they dine, servers slip past them to a cellar brimming with 300 wines, sourced from renowned growing regions around the globe.
Gillian's Pizzadelli caters to various cravings by serving hand-tossed New York-style pizzas and hot and cold deli sandwiches. Whether sitting outdoors or indoors at a brightly painted table, guests can dig into light wraps stuffed with veggies, hot sandwiches bubbling with melted cheese, or hand-tossed pizzas slathered in housemade sauce and piled high with toppings such as sweet capicola ham and bacon.
Free WiFi allows guests to browse the Internet while awaiting regular or gluten-free eats. Menus are available in multiple languages, making the restaurant a favorite among international travelers.
MoZaic's head chef Dylan Elhajoui learned how to cook in his native Fes, Morocco surrounded by a family of chefs and restaurant owners, flavorful foods and fragrances, and bustling markets brimming with fresh produce. He infuses the recipes of his youth with abundant herbs and spices, organic meats, and fresh fish, depending on what can be found in that week's farmers' markets and fishermen's nets. Chef Elhajoui and his team craft delicacies such as the crispy duck leg confit, which they serve with a sour cherry bread pudding and crystalized ginger orange glaze.
Some restaurant owners prefer to stay behind the scenes. Achille and Massimo Nigri are not those people. At Cafe Amici, each guest is greeted “like a long-lost friend,” according to one happy customer. The homey eatery not only makes diners feel welcome, but also sates appetites with authentic Italian eats such as homemade lasagna, gnocchi with crabmeat, and wild mushroom ravioli. One whole wall inside the sun-soaked dining room is covered with framed accolades from local media outlets and taste buds with the ability to type.
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.