All in the family at Cafe Italia. From left to right:
Angelo, Peter, Anna Maria and Ben Lubrano.
Brand-new gadgets and great old favorites.
By Judi Gallagher
Although we’re not usually big on New Year’s Eve, hubby Paul and I decided to have some friends over for an impromptu Cuban dinner to ring in the New Year. I do not mean to refer to our dear friends as guinea pigs, but I did have a few new kitchen gadgets to try out, and who better than good friends in case the chicken overcooks or the paella doesn’t stay hot?
The verdict: 2007 is sure to be a good year—the mojo pork was tender to the bone and the roasted chickens, cooked in my new Hamilton Beach countertop roaster oven (about $50 on sale, and it can be used as a chafing dish as well) were juicy and done in less time than in the oven. And the paella stayed nicely heated on our new electric warming tray—so New Year’s shaped up to be quite a success and worthy of staying up past 9 p.m.
Some of my favorite tastes of the year came at the closing of 2006. They included a delicious Brooklyn-inspired Italian meal at Café Italia on Fruitville Road (5406 Fruitville Road, 941-343-9978).
I was hankering for veal Parmesan, the kind I remember ordering at Mama Leone’s in New York after a Yankee-Red Sox doubleheader—loaded with fresh homemade sauce and perfectly browned mozzarella cheese. So we set out to Café Italia, which is no secret to locals, as the place is packed for lunch and dinner almost daily. As if the culinary angels were listening (imagine a light shining down on our table and a choir singing at this point), we dined on baked clams loaded with garlic butter, fettuccine Alfredo with grilled shrimp, classic cheese pizza and veal Parmesan. Then the owner informed us during a table visit that her own family started the great Mama Leone’s! Yes, the culinary angels do sing: Brooklyn is in Sarasota in a strip mall next to Winn Dixie. A tip: You can purchase their garlic oil, perfect to drizzle on halved tomatoes for broiling, also perfect with a sprinkle of feta cheese over corkscrew pasta.
“Hot off the Griddle” restaurant scoop: Rumour is that Fred, that popular Southside bistro, has been, or is about to be, sold. Whether the entire company of Epicurean Life (the company also owns Morton’s Market and the Tasting Room) is in the package or just Fred’s remains to be seen. If the new owners are reading and you do acquire Morton’s Market, please do not change the fresh fruit tart or apricot rugulach or this blogger will have to organize a protest!
Do you have a favorite Italian restaurant in Sarasota? Please tell us about it by posting below--and tell us what you love to order there, too!