A Touch of Whimsy

By staff September 17, 2007

Ca’ Rina is a little Italian gem in downtown Sarasota.


By Judi Gallagher


I love whimsical and out of the ordinary. I will always miss The Alley Cat restaurant. There was something about sitting outside in mismatched wicker chairs with little white lights everywhere that transformed a once-not-so-prime area of downtown into fairyland. Sarasota now welcomes a little Italian gem, Ca’Rina Espresso & Wine Bar (955-9434), as our new whimsical spot. Located next to the Hotel Ranola on Bamboo Lane between Main and Ringling, Ca’Rina has been something of a grassroots experience. Loyal patrons are evident by the calls out to the bar of “See you Tuesday with my mother,” or “Don’t forget to stock extra bottles of the Chianti next weekend, the whole bridge club is coming back.”


A new adorable little espresso bar downtown.


If you have ever traveled down the alleyways of Italy, you know that the espresso bars and enotecas off the beaten path are usually the best. Creative in its placement and adorable in the old Florida house setting with outdoor patio, Ca’Rina is appropriately run by a husband and wife team that fell in love in Italy. He was born in Bologna; she was an American living in Italy to explore her Italian roots. The restaurant’s simple menu offers delicious bruschetta and hot pressed paninis along with fresh fennel salad and the salad classic, Caprese. While I much prefer the margherita pizza at Cosimo’s or Carrabba’s Italian Market, we did enjoy the house special last Saturday evening of lasagna Bolognaise. For simple pleasure and conversation with cappuccino it can’t be beat; but don’t go between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.—they are closed then for siesta.


One of my favorite things about being a professional chef is the camaraderie between chefs. I am so fortunate to be part of a “dream team” of chefs who raise funds for charity and had the pleasure of performing with these stars last Sunday to benefit the Sarasota Sports Foundation. Howard and Michelle Doss have become regular high bidders at various charity auctions for our gourmet cooking class and lunch. This last performance of the dream team of chef Mac De Carl of Cork Restaurant, chef Larry Kramms of the C’est Cheese store on Tamiami Trail that will open in November, chef Patrick Quakenbush (a.k.a. Quak) from Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and chef Ryan Kelly of Roy’s (which graciously hosted the event) gave us all the chance to open some fabulous wines and pair with our favorite recipes. Needless to say, six courses in all for lunch is a bit much—but hey, for a high bidder for charity, it was just the right amount!


The dream team and fans at Roy's.

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