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.
Monty's Pizza may not open until 11 a.m., but the cooks show up to work pretty early each morning. They've got a lot work on their plates, since they make dough and sauce from scratch every day. After they finish with their two most basic ingredients, they start taking calls and orders. They spice up their pies-to-be with a selection of 22 different toppings and handful of fine Italian herbs dusted across each crust. Then, they bake each one nice and slow, until the melted cheese glistens, and, like in King Midas's theory of geology, the crust turns golden. They also craft stromboli and calzones and a handful of Italian-style specialty poultry dishes, such as chicken marsala, piccata, and parmesan.
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.
Cosimo’s Trattoria & Bar blends the charm of Old World bistros with more modern international flavors. In keeping with tradition, the chefs hand-toss each 12-inch pizza before topping the pies with everything from ground Italian sausage and roasted red peppers to grilled chicken and sundried tomatoes. Classic pies are then baked to a toothsome crisp inside a wood-burning brick oven.
Homemade pasta dishes, ciabatta sandwiches, and grilled salmon with polenta exemplify bistro-style Italian cuisine. But the chefs push the boundaries with wasabi aioli and sweet Thai chili sauce on tempura-fried shrimp, and hoisin sauce and sesame seeds can top surprising specialty pizzas. Gluten-free items also accommodate diners with special diets.
Tan walls, diner-style booths, large plate-glass windows all lend a homespun charm to the airy, high-ceilinged dining room at Cosimo’s Trattoria & Bar. For a splash of color amid the space’s earth-toned palette, the eatery also features a colorful portrait as well as planters brimming with leafy green ferns. The covered veranda allows diners to enjoy their meals in the open air while avoiding the prying eyes of passing jetliner pilots.
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.