There is a new Italian restaurant in town that feels like it could be at home anywhere, even in a big city, but instead it's in a strip mall on Clark Road. It's got a great vibe; when you're there, you feel like any minute you'll run into a family of Sicilians with red sauce stains on their shirts, talking and laughing loudly, enjoying the happiness that comes from damn good food.
The cuisine is called "peasant Italian," but I call it delicious--a modern twist on what Nonna might have made back in the day.
Larger-than-life chef Joe DiMaggio has done it again. After opening Servandos in the Rosemary District and building a strong fan base there, he's brought his new concept, Cafe Barbosso, to the space that formerly housed Cosimo's. Before you order, make sure you read the back of the menu--the story on it could make for its own HBO mini-series.
Now don't worry if you loved the pizza at Cosimo's--you can still get pizza, albeit with a slight upgrade. But Cafe BarBosso is now a neighborhood restaurant where you just want to keep going back. Especially for menu items like a seemingly endless bowl of linguine and clam sauce ($17), or angel hair pasta with lobster, shrimp and spinach ($24; a dish Chef Joe often prepared for actor Al Pacino).
And make sure you get the pork chops with vinegar peppers--seriously ($20).
For the low carb eaters, there's a fabulous chopped salad with white balsamic vinaigrette and--wait for it--Sunday sauce and meatballs right on top . There's also a traditional frittata ($8) with thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes, creamy eggs and carmelized onion. (I'll be ordering a few to go for the holidays.) And the "eggs in purgatory" dish ($7) is comprised of farm-fresh eggs poached in marinara sauce with basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and chile oil.
Other notables: the veal Parmesan sub ($12) with fresh basil and Sunday sauce on ciabatta bread; seven-grain-crusted salmon with lemon beurre blanc ($22; a fresh take on the meuniere style) and lemon sole oreganato ($20) for lovers of classic Italian fish dishes. Vegetarians have some great options, including 10-layer eggplant with Parmesan bechamel, fresh mozzarella and marinara ($16).
The pizzas range in flavors from Italian sausage with roasted peppers, sauteed onions, provolone and mozzarella ($13) to lamb kofta ($15 with coconut curry, cardamom yogurt, mint oil and fresh mozzarella). All are served in either a small or a large size.
And dessert offers a modern take on classic Italian dishes, too--like tiramisu with orange instead of coffee and cocoa.
Cafe Barbosso is located at 5501 Palmer Crossing Circle, (941) 922-7999. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 4 p.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 4 p.m.-9 p.m.