A skillfully made plate of risotto is about as good as Continental comfort food gets. The ingredients are simple: short-grain arborio rice, broth, wine, Parmesan cheese, and usually a pinch of saffron. Riffs on the recipe include bits of green vegetables, onion, seafood, sausage, maybe ham. If you’re in this part of Florida, you can find delicious risotto at these destinations.
The risotto with scallops, calamari and green peas at Chianti is outstanding—authentically Italian and made exactly the right way. The arborio rice is creamy, rich and velvety smooth. And pairing the rice with whole pan-seared scallops and pieces of calamari is genius. $23 as an entrée. 3900 Clark Road., Sarasota, (941) 952-3186.
At Caragiulos, risotto with peas can be ordered as a side dish ($4.50). This is a straight-up rendition of an Italian dish adored by children and adults alike—good to the last fat little grain of rice. Chef also makes a risotto cake, which he pairs with cobia or salmon ($25), and risotto is served with the veal piccata and other meat dishes. 69 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 951-0866.
A risotto-informed dish for those who can’t decide between beef and shellfish is the filet and lobster tail at Red Clásico. A six-ounce filet is paired with a whole broiled lobster tail and accompanied by an asparagus and lobster risotto. Oh, there’s shallot Bearnaise sauce, too. A totally decadent dinner at $33. Mushroom risotto as a side: $8. 1341 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 957-0700.
At Pino’s, Pino Luongo prepares creative seafood risotto dishes, some made with plump red shrimp from Argentina or long and succulent prawns from Spain, $34. On any given night you might find a simple, hearty risotto studded with fresh local seasonal vegetables, the arborio rice mixture enriched with white wine and a pinch of saffron. 3800 S. Tamiami Trail (Paradise Plaza), Sarasota, (941) 366-1440.
St. Armands Circle has a first-rate destination for risotto in 15 South Ristorante Enoteca. The risotto here is a frutti de mare composed of creamy risotto combined with shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, garlic and tomatoes. A traditional Mediterranean culinary celebration. $23. 15 S. Boulevard of Presidents, St. Armands Circle, (941) 388-1555.