Fiorella Italian Bistro has opened on Tuttle Road, near Bee Ridge. Owner Francesco Giovannucci, who hails from the Abruzzo region of Italy, has been working on the concept since before the Covid-19 pandemic, but waited to open until things quieted down.
"I like the fusion of French and Italian," says Giovannucci. His passion for both cuisines is evident in his menu. While it skews Italian, there are touches of French influences throughout. The tournedos Rossini, a filet topped with foie gras and porcini cream sauce, is a prime example. The dish is finished with black truffle shavings, which rain from above as Giovannucci grates them onto the plate.
Giovannucci moved to Sarasota eight years ago. "My best friend was here and he called me to come," he says. "I think Sarasota is a beautiful city. The people are wonderful."
The restaurant is small but cozy, with deep gray walls lined with primary-colored abstract art. Wine bottles top the partition that runs through the restaurant, creating an intimate feeling perfect for a date night.
Standouts include an octopus appetizer (pictured at top), or appertivi, accompanied by cannellini beans and yellow tomatoes. The octopus is expertly cooked, tender with a deep smoky char that is cut by bright acid and rich olive oil. The base of the plate is painted with black squid ink, which further contributes to the oceanic flavors of the dish.
Mare fregola, a toasted spherical pasta, meanwhile, is bursting with saffron, creating an intense yellow appearance that reflects the décor. The fregola pops as I bite down, a fun textural experience. Scallops, mussels, crab and shrimp are mixed throughout the dish, but they're secondary to the saffron.
Giovannucci's Italian training is best displayed in his shrimp and scallop truffle risotto. The rice is perfectly al dente and it's spread across the plate in an artistic manner that the judges of Top Chef would commend. Porcini mushrooms and asparagus are like jewels on the rice, their flavors marrying with the truffles to create an umami-packed masterpiece. The dish is adorned with seared shrimp and scallops that round it out. It's the star of the menu.
Fiorella, which is named for Giovannucci's mother, is a celebration of Italian food from a chef who isn't afraid of twisting the cuisine to match his own palate. Mom should be proud.
Fiorella Italian Bistro is located at 3809 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota, and is open 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call (941) 210-3607 or visit the restaurant's website.