Good Deal

By John Bancroft March 1, 2009

Sometimes a good deal is less about how little you spend and more about how much you get for your money. Luckily, Paisano’s Italian Bakery in Sarasota, owned and operated by David and Laurie Moretti since 1998, qualifies on both counts.

For starters, anyone I know who has tasted them raves about Paisano’s almond crescent cookies, big, rich but balanced beauties that I count among the best I’ve ever tasted. In fact, a psychologist of my acquaintance confesses to happily driving from her home near Lakewood Ranch to the bakery at 2732 Stickney Point Road just to fetch home a box of them. At $14.60 a pound (eight to 10 large cookies heavy with slivered almonds), these cookies are typical of the value-for-your-money variety of good deals at Paisano’s, although the flourless pignoli cookies rich with pine nuts and almond paste at $16.50 a pound run a close second. I could sing the praises of the pastry cases at much greater length, but I need to move on to the refrigerated case.

For a quick dinner, I recently chose a quartet of housemade eggplant roulades ready for the oven for $7.95. I was impressed first with the look of the fat darlings under their clear plastic dome. I was impressed next with the ingredients label, which listed only items recognizable as real food, from eggplant and eggs to ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Not a chemical additive in sight! Finally, I was really impressed when I slid these savory babies out of the oven, plated two each for Colette and myself, and tasted. Heaven! The bread crumbs coating the rolled eggplant slices had browned to a perfect crispness, the filling cheeses, fresh spinach and spices had melded in perfect harmony, and the marinara that sauced all was (pardon me for repeating myself) perfect, too. Give the oven alchemists at Paisano’s a call at (941) 926-8422 for today’s cold case specials, or just drop in for an almond cookie and get ready for a nice surprise.

An editor, writer and online publisher, John Bancroft has reviewed restaurants, books, movies and music for many magazines, Web sites and newspapers, most recently for the St. Petersburg Times.

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