Aria and Two Chefs Expand My Horizons

By Megan McDonald April 25, 2011

If you read my blog last week, you now know that Sarasota Magazine editorial director Pam Daniel and I have been trying to be dieting buddies. So far, not so good—10 days in and I have gained the pound back that I lost—or, as a friend likes to say, the pound found me! While I am still attempting to lighten my load, I am heading off to Napa and then The Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. (I will be skyping in live on ABC7 Wednesday and Friday, so tune in!)

But before the illustrious diet began, I managed to experience two completely different meals, both enjoyable and worth going back for.

Pasta is wonderful at Aria.

A delicate Branzonia was just as delightful at Aria.

Now that's what I call presentation.

New on North Palm Ave., Aria has opened in what used to be Zak’s Steakhouse. I have always loved this charming Old  Florida house, its rooms, especially upstairs, and its al fresco patio. Although Aria calls itself European, the menu is clearly leaning towards Italian, with a nice nod to the French thanks to longtime restaurateur Georgio Oldano and chef  Giovanni Tulino.  Pasta is wonderful at Aria, and under the direction of the owner, we sunk our taste buds into a homemade tagliatelli pasta with mushrooms, sausage and cream. Linguini alla Vongole presents itself in a classic form, and I have not enjoyed this favorite dish since Pino moved from Main Street. Specials are impressive, from filet with cognac and green peppercorns to flaming lobster skewers and an impressive imported Italian wine selection.

In a surprising balance, Two Chefs, located in a clearly non-descript strip off 301 towards the airport (1617), was a pleasant experience once you enter. A simple room is enhanced by colorful walls and a true bistro feel.

Who would have thought a restaurant on DeSoto in the industrial area could look so good?

Spinach salad at Two Chefs is delightful and abundant.

Loved the duck and red cabbage at Two Chefs.


The food is what really gets you coming back. Chef Pavel brings an authentic Hungarian-Polish flare with his stuffed cabbage rolls, beef stroganoff and roast duck with berry sauce and braised red cabbage. The apple strudel is to die for and a second full-time business for this European entrepreneur. It is the onion soup that I still dream of, however, and have now been spoiled for life. The broth is as bountiful in flavors as I can ever recall experiencing, and one cup leaves you completely satisfied and comforted.

Two great finds in very different atmospheres and both worth enjoying again!

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