The cooks at Café Gabbiano ensure that their Italian creations taste authentic by following a wealth of family recipes. In addition to crafting classics, such as lobster ravioli and chicken breast sautéed with marsala wine, they keep diners on their toes by preparing hand-cut and milk-fed 14-ounce veal chops a new way every night. According to YourObserver.com, more than 220 wines complement meals, and sommelier Marc Grimaud prudently pairs wines and dishes upon request. Feasts unfold across 4,000 square feet, including an outdoor, climate-controlled patio and private dining rooms modeled after wine cellars. For visitors who prefer meals on the go, chefs pack baskets with appetizers and bottles of wine—ideal for romantic dinners on the beach, with quick bites between low and high tides.
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.
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.