Chianti bread pudding qtsna9

The last time we were at Chianti, a favorite Italian-American restaurant, we were browsing the desert menu when our server said, “You could just skip the deliberations and go for the bread pudding, you won’t be sorry. It’s so good, I get one when my shift is over and take it home to heat up for breakfast.” We took his advice and can tell you the bread pudding, served warm with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with rich caramel sauce, is delectable. The secret is the bread — the chef uses croissants. $7.50. You want some.

The new Mercato on Hillview last weekend and loved  the Mercato Special pizza ($18): prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and arugula on a wood-fired thin crust that was both crunchy and chewy. We shared one pizza, which was plenty for lunch; the atmosphere is lovely, as well, with a kind of contemporary farmhouse vibe. We'll be back. 

It's hard to keep up with all the deli drama in downtown Sarasota, and frankly, as long as we can keep getting our hands on quality sandwich meat, we don't really care who's feuding with whom. We recently checked out Doc Sam's New York Deli & Gourmet Eatery, the rebranded restaurant that sits in the old Sol Meyer space, and came away impressed. The pastrami ($10-$24) is a little chewier than it was under former chef Sol Shenker, who's now down the road at Sol's NYC Delicatessen, but the flavor still possesses a nice peppery grab. The crunchy, verdant pickles were another highlight.

Even before Bradenton’s Pier 22 restaurant had that name (remember Mattison’s Riverside?), we’ve adored its seared tuna appetizer ($16). The ahi is dusted with sesame seeds and a dash of cumin, seared ever-so-slightly and cut into mild, tender, delicious medallions. It’s served with a generous dollop of wasabi aioli (Pier 22 uses quality wasabi powder, so it’s got great kick), Sriracha and a sweet teriyaki glaze on the side. Shareable if you’re generous, but you can probably take down a whole order on your own. We won’t judge. 

One of our favorite ways to kick off the weekend is with a half-dozen oysters on the half shell ($13.95) and a martini at Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota. Soak up the gorgeous view, the tourists and the live music and have yourself a happy evening. There's not much better.

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