For more than a decade, Gulf Gate has been one of Sarasota’s most exciting dining districts, with an assortment of restaurants serving a mix of global cuisines. And while the Covid-19 pandemic has created widespread chaos in the restaurant world, it hasn’t slowed down Gulf Gate, which has seen a number of new restaurants sprout up over the course of the past year.
Start with RomanSQ, which opened in February 2020. The restaurant’s name is pronounced “romanesque,” a nod to its exceptional Roman-style pizza.
Pizza from the Eternal City differs from most slices you’re familiar with. Baked in large rectangles, rather than circles, and sliced into rectangles, rather than wedges, RomanSQ’s pizza is covered with toppings, leaving little extraneous crust around the edges. And the crust itself is much sturdier than a typical floppy Neapolitan slice. The bottom of the pizza has a thick, crunchy texture that lets you hold it with one hand. Atop that layer, however, the crust remains airy and soft, almost like a focaccia.
You can pop into RomanSQ and select a variety of slices from the restaurant’s pre-made pizzas or grab a whole pie to go. Pizzas come in a “full tray” or “half tray” size. The former feeds eight, the latter four.
It’s not just the crust that makes RomanSQ’s pies special. The toppings are also first-rate. The shop’s “fra diavolo” pizza ($26 for a half tray) comes loaded with sliced red onions, mushrooms and banana peppers and guanciale—pork jowl that’s cured like bacon. The peppers provide a wash of subtle heat, while the guanciale tastes sweet and smoky. A pizza made with thinly sliced potatoes and Genovese pesto ($27) is subtler, but still creamy and delicious. When was the last time you experienced something new in a slice of pizza? RomanSQ will knock you out.
New seafood restaurants have also popped up. Brine Seafood & Raw Bar, for example, offers uncooked oysters and clams, plus ceviche, crab cakes and fish entrées. Or head to Seabar, a swanky new spot opened by the team behind the casual Gulf Gate Food + Beer pub.
Seabar is billed as serving “modern Pacific fare,” and it draws influences from Japan, Korea, Vietnam and China. Its Kung Pao octopus ($20) is meaty but tender and comes paired with black rice and roasted broccolini and coated with a sweet barbecue sauce. Seabar’s udon noodle bowl ($17), meanwhile, is stocked with shredded hanger steak, slices of pork belly, a poached egg, snow peas, lettuce and mushrooms. Both dishes fall on the sweet side, and I wish they had more spice, but Seabar shows promise. If you’re dining in, it has a creative cocktail menu, too.
Gulf Gate is also on trend with what are called “ghost kitchens,” shared commercial spaces where chefs can prepare food for delivery or takeout orders, with no seating or service.
Bootsy’s Pot Pies opened in the commercial food hub Your Culinary Place last fall. The company makes single-serving pot pies, plus macaroni and cheese, sliders and other comfort fare. Its basic chicken pot pie ($11) is fantastic. The filling is gooey and rich, with well-seasoned pulled chicken, plenty of hearty vegetables and a Chablis-flavored cream sauce. The crust is crackly and toasty. Better than your mom’s chicken pot pie? I’d wager yes.
RomanSQ | 6670 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 237-8742, romansq.com
Brine Seafood & Raw Bar | 2250 Gulf Gate Drive, (941) 952-3039, brinesarasota.com
Seabar | 6540 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 923-6605, seabarsrq.com
Bootsy’s Pot Pies | Located inside Your Culinary Place, 6592 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 330-6355, (941) 735-2777, bootsyspotpies.com