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Good Eats Around Sarasota/Bradenton

Ciao, Hounds:

My DH has just taken a job offer in the Bradenton area, and being the 'hounds that we are, we would like to live in an area near good restaurants. So can you locals please give us some heads up about the cuisine? We are coming from the NYC area, so we like up-scale, no chains, fresh ingredients etc. Can you buy locally-caught fish in the area, or is that just a fantasy of mine? Looking forward to your suggestions. Thanks.

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  1. FISH? Ya godda be kiddin. The fish markets in the Village of Cortez (Star Fish, Bell Fish) make the Fulton fish market look like a goldfish bowl. (Maybe a slight exaggeration).
    Star additionally has a rustic resto in the back for their fresh catch at lunchtime, right on the dock, on the sunny south side.
    Bell has the best prices for stone crab that I know of. Call ahead, ask for Tom. Watch out for speeding forklifts.
    You can get fresh grouper, pompano in season, tuna, and others. Star has pink Florida shrimp that has only been flash frozen for a day. Also, crab meat (fresh and frozen) and frozen conch meat (5 lb boxes)
    The Village has an amazing nautical charm, and an annual weekend food fest.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      If Star Fish makes the Fulton Fish Market look like a goldfish bowl, I'll skip the Fulton Fish Market next time I go to NY. I went there today after reading this post and I was really disappointed. The food at the restaurant wasn't bad, although nothing to write home about, and the view was very nice. But the market! A few very tired looking clams, and the only whole fish (some mullet and sheepshead) had dull, lifeless eyes. Ward's in Clearwater has a lot more variety and fresher looking fish. Nowhere I have been since moving to the area comes near what I was used to in Greece, though; clams spitting out of the bucket, fish wriggling on the table, and SO much variety to choose from!

      Since this thread is a couple of years old, I'll just assume Star Fish used to be better than it is now.

      1. re: proboscidian

        Proboscidian, I am sorry to hear this. I had slated Cortez for an upcoming excursion. Thank you for saving me the wasted day. People had such nice things to say before. I wonder what happened?

        1. re: CFishman

          This is also the slowest month of the year for retail fish sales. The economic malaise and the long line grouper moratorium from Jan. to Sept. put some boats out of business. A.P. Bell (same ownership as Star next door) has a blackboard with fresh catch and prices, they will read it to you before you commit to the drive. But they sell whole gutted fish, so this is for those with fileting ability. Last week gray grouper were $3.50 /lb, fresh that day, and there were 7-8 other varieties including pompano, permit, mangrove snapper, and redfish. It is a true dodge-the-forklift place and is mostly a wholesaler.
          And as you know, this is not clam country. I was disappointed that large/jumbo stone crabs were $17 on opening day; last year they were $12.
          The restaurant at Star has started smoking mullet, and Karen gave me a complimentary one, which was as good as any I have had but I am not a mullet expert. In the Star retail market I hope for a fresh tuna loin for sashimi, and average about 70% success.
          You may want to hold off until high season begins next month when turnover and selections are best, and I doubt it would be a wasted day.

          1. re: Veggo

            Veggo, thanks for the detailed picture and the advice. There is something cathartic about getting out of Tampa, so I am glad to put this back on my list. What's your reasoning on going for the large/jumbos? I always buy the medium ones thinking that there might be more meat and that it will certainly extend the experience of cracking and eating the stone crabs.

            1. re: CFishman

              CF, when I hold in my hand a jumbo ( or even better, colossal) fresh fresh stone crab claw, relieved of its' shell except around the pincers, but with all the flesh perfectly intact, and I can smell its fresh sweetness, and I measure up whether this claw will be 2 bites or 3, and dip it into my mild mustard and key lime sauce, and orient the broad center tendon so that my teeth with just a gentle clasp will yield a mouthfull of that exquisite sweet meat as I slide it away...I think that is one of life's great pleasures.
              Many of the colassal harvested here are air freighted to Vegas and the Arabian peninsula, where they fetch a premium price. I have a buddy who sets a few aside for me. When I was back in Belize in March and April, I ate many claws the size of my hand almost, and I didn't want to leave.
              I'll reserve the extended experience of cracking and eating for pistachios.

        2. re: proboscidian

          probie....Go next door as described by veggo.....their fish "on the bone" is unloaded from the commercial boats all day long.

          1. re: ospreycove

            Veggo, you sold me. I am going big next time. Do you have a recipe or a source for your key lime sauce?

            1. re: CFishman

              Too easy. Don't be fooled by high-priced pretenders. 3 parts Dukes mayo, 1 part simple dijon mustard, dash of Worcestershire, float 2 TBSP Nellie & Joe's Key West lime juice on top. If fresh key limes are available go with them, the seasons for crabs and fruit don't coincide.

              1. re: Veggo

                The mustard sauce I have down. I thought the key lime sauce was going to be something different. I look forward to trying this. I am having a hard time imagining what the mustard sauce and key lime taste like together.

                1. re: CFishman

                  By the way, if you go to Cortez, the Star Fish market hours are 10-6 M-Sat, and 11:30-3:00 Sun. Restaurant hours are Tues.-Sat. 11:30-8:00, Sun and Mon 11:30-3:00.
                  A.P. Bell Fish is 9-5 M-F, 9-12 noon on Sat.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    I see a little Manatee County field trip in my not-so-distant future. Stone crab claws are my ruffies. :)

                    We were down that way yesterday and had dinner at The Lazy Lobster in Sarasota, which was pretty disappointing. It's not that easy to screw up lobster. :/

                    Lazy Lobster
                    7602 Lockwood Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243

                    1. re: sweet_polly

                      The Star Fish resto serves stone crab (this is a rustic picnic table place on the dock with begging pelicans and fishing boats within spittin' distance), but if you get stone crabs to go, they are cheaper at Bell than at Star, by $4/ lb. Bring a cooler and Tom will fix you up, with a bag of ice, too.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        I like eating at picnic tables on the dock and watching the pelicans...especially in this weather. I will take a cooler, too, however...like, shoes, a girl really can't have too many stone crab claws! Thanks for the tip. :)

                      2. re: sweet_polly

                        If you want Lobster Fl is not the place to go. Fl lobsters are small and not in the least like Main lobsters. Captain Brian does have a decent one.

                        1. re: Mother of four

                          Spiny lobsters native to Florida and the Caribbean are generally not available in restaurants here. They are not at all similar to Maine lobsters, especially in that they do not have claws. Small? Not necessarily. I have seen them up to 5-7 pounds when diving, but I leave the big ones alone. They are harvested by free divers in Turks & Caicos, de-tailed, frozen, and are the surf part of many surf-and-turfs in the US.
                          Whole lobsters sold in Florida restaurants are Maine lobsters, with few exceptions.

              2. re: ospreycove

                Sound good for next time I'm in Bradenton.

          2. Veggo: When is the Cortez annual weekend food fest? Thyanks for the tip on stone crab. I was a Star Mkt today and was going to order from them. I will call Tom.
            Another find: Down (east ) on Cortez 3-4 miles a little hole in the wall -Jose's-true,real,excellent Cuban food.

            6 Replies
            1. re: il davis

              The next Cortez food festival is Feb. 21&22 (2009).
              For stone crab, Bell will be about $4 /lb less than Star, for all sizes. The never-been-frozen are of course the best, and Tom will give you an honest answer. If you go about 4 in the afternoon, you can watch the catches coming in.

              1. re: Veggo

                This is all very encouraging news. I should be there for the Feb. festival. What about restaurants in the Bradenton area?

                1. re: lattelover

                  For higher end, Ezra at 56 & Manatee draws from north of the skyway bridge. For pleasant views of boats and docks (for a price), Mattison's Riverside (S side of the river) and Riviera Dunes (N side of river).
                  Anna Maria Island has a whole range; do your exploring.
                  For thrifty eating, Marias in the big red barn flea market has the best tamales and quesadillas in a hundred mile radius.
                  I'm a regular at Woody's River Roo, in Ellenton. Docks, tiki bar, live music, good bar food- smoked amberjack dip, grouper fingers, shrimp.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    This area is dominated by chain and mediocre restaurants. So brace yourselves so as not to be disappointed. Those that get top reviews here and elsewhere fall short on a good, full experience. Those include Derek's. Euphamia Haye, Bijou, Beach Bistro, Selva Grill etc. The chefs at these and others have a hard--maybe impossible--time in deciding which ingrediants to leave out of a dish. They have no trouble adding too many ingredients. Take a look here:

                    However, good pizza can be found at Epicure especially now that they have just installed a wood-burning oven. Plus the fellow making the pizzas hails from Naples, Italy where he was a pizza baker. He is making the pizzas a bit too thin to be true "Neapolitan" but he tells me that's what his customers want and expect.

                    We eat out almost every day and are continually disappointed. The other night we tried the new restaurant on Osprey Ave. Liddy's has replaced the one that was there. The salads were good, my wife's rare tuna was good, the fried calamari was good any my two small crabcakes @ $26 were inedible. On top of that I was somewhat forced to explain what I didn't like about the crabcakes when I just wanted to pay the check (with the crab cakes included) and leave. A couple of other things the place was crowded and very noisy so that a normal conversation was difficult. Too, there was no "adult supervision" just a couple of attractive young women walking around asking if everything was ok.

                    1. re: Arthur16

                      Sarasota upscale restaurants seem, in general, to be like Arthur16's experience - pretentiously overpriced, not very good food and worse service. Roy Yamagutchi's Roy's is like that certainly. Remember the best time of year to dine out is not Season - November to April. All the snowbirds are standing in lines down the block... My partner and I seldom go out during Season except to local, off the main drag, places. Wait until there are fewer NY, OH and Ontario license plates around before trying new places for the first time.

              2. We like Pho Cali in downtown Sarasota, it is a no nonese vietnamese restaurant, the waiters a efficent and the food is some of the best we have had (and my husband and I spent quite a bit of time in Vietnam and Thailand.

                If you are looking for ambience this is not the place, but if you want a great inexpensive dinner and then a lovely area to take a stroll, this is the place!

                1. Sorry, l agree wholeheartedly with Arthur and Kilted, food not terrible but after NY, where l moved about a year ago, mostly chains. Level of ambiance high, but food not too hot. French place in Gulfgate near Stickney Point that puts out excellent frog's legs( Chinese supply not French, thus inexpensive), but very good; in same area sushi place good but certainly top notch. Lived there for 6 years, was six years way too long. Understand this is not the region's fault my bad choice, small community so cannot compare to large metro area, but l needed large metro area even with poor weather.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    The little French place in Gulfgate is now closed.

                    What the area needs are a few good, knowledgeable food critics rather than the ones that like everything. One would think that the local magazines would be the first place to find a responsible food critic.

                    Gordon Ramsey would find many restaurants for his TV show here.

                    On a pleasant day it is delightful to have lunch on Lavanda's patio in the the Towles Court area. The Towles Court section has many art galleries.

                    I istill have hope for the little Cafe Bologna on Tamiani Trail South. Too bad it is not open for lunch but it is worth a try for dinner.

                    1. re: Arthur16

                      Arthur... how far south on The Trail is this Cafe Bologna? I don't remember seeing it; but you know hw that goes. I'm 'waaaay south - as in south Venice - but get to SRQ at least once a week.

                      1. re: KiltedCook

                        Not Arthur, but; on the left,on 41 at Constitution going north. Make a u and it is in the little strip mall where the lamp shape store is. Very small, good food, very Italian, make sure and make reservations!

                      2. re: Arthur16

                        I believe the French Affair in Gulf Gate remains open. The relatively newer French place, whose name I can't recall but was located around the corner from the French Affair, closed. We never went there, but have gone to French Affair for years.

                        Restaurants are advertisers, too -- which is part of the reason it's tough to find completely accurate reviews in local magazines/newspapers.

                        We went to Lavanda years ago, shortly after it opened, and never went back, thinking it would be gone in a few months. We'll have to give it another try since we've heard such good things about it lately!

                        1. re: cuffster

                          French Affair correct, eat there when l come to town ,$10 corkage on your bottles make it even better.

                        2. re: Arthur16

                          French Affair in Gulf Gate for years. It is deliscious . Not much ambience. Great prices.

                          Best pizza in Sarasota is Il Pancificio. It is on main street. Opening in Gulf Gate soon

                        3. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          I love the small ambiance and more simplier ways, can't stand the big city. If you really look there are many very top notch restaurants. There are lots of chains. Popular tourist trap so it comes with the territory but many fine restaurants.

                        4. one thing to consider is that bradenton is very close to st. pete. there we have found the better asian places. one is called hooks in st. pete they have their own style of thai sushi with toppings. another place we like to eat is called abc for chinese. there is also a restaurant called tc choy for sunday dim sum. so just relax and be in bradenton instead of someplace else. half the fun is of living here is the challenge of finding new places.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: pbd

                            A review of Cafe Bologna can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/7evety

                            The reviews of Cafe Bologna and Esca will give the reader some idea of the amateurish nature of restaurant reviews in the area. Too, I can assure you that this Esca and the one on 43d and Ninth in NYC are worlds apart in all-around quality. By the way, Esca means bait in Italian. The Esca in NYC is one of our favorite restaurants in NYC.

                            1. re: Arthur16

                              Esca in NY is a Bastianich restaurant on the site where Frico used to be, high level seafood, good place.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                The French place's name that I referred to in Gulf Gate is Le Parigot. Their soups were excellent.

                                Dave Pasternack is the chef at Esca and his partners are Bastianich as mentioned above and Mario Batali. Pasternack is an avid fisherman who often brings his catch to the restaurant.

                                Had a delicious fried grouper sandwich at the Cortez Kitchen today.

                                IThe Taco truck on old 301 has good tacos.

                          2. If you go to sarasotamagazine.com and scroll down to the Dining Guide you can choose from a list of area restaurant reviews.
                            Some we enjoy are Ophelia's on the Bay, Cafe L'Europe and Beach Bistro for their food quality, presentation and dining ambiance.

                            Ophelia's Restaurant
                            9105 Midnight Pass Rd, Sarasota, FL 34242

                            Beach Bistro
                            6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

                            Cafe L' Europe
                            431 Saint Armands Cir, Sarasota, FL 34236

                            1. Arthur 16, Kilted Cook, and Delucacheesemonger get my hackles up with their criticism of the local restaurant scene. And then, I think, they sort of have a point. Bradenton/Sarasota/Venice is not New York, but then, compare the population of Bradenton to New York City. Is it a fair comparison? Nyet!

                              There are plenty of fine restaurants here, but you have to play to our area's strengths: seafood, barbeque, Cuban, Italian (due to the high number of immigrants from New
                              Jersey and New York) and Carribean (also, the associated "Floribean").

                              Try Ophelia's and Beach Bistro (seafood and continental cuisine at both), Cafe Baci (Italian), the Columbia (Cuban). I'm not a big barbeque guy, but I keep hearing good things about a barbeque place on 301, a quarter mile or less west of I-75. Perhaps someone else on the board can supply the name, please? I recommend the Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton (also near the intersection of 301 and I-75 in a cul-de-sac on the north) for raw oysters, oysters Rockefeller, and the locally caught fresh fish--grouper, snapper, mahi-mahi (dolfin), sea trout, etc.

                              I will say this about our area: The last time I was in Manhatten, I paid $18 for a smallish martini made with a well-brand gin at the midtown Holiday Inn. The last time I ordered a martini at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, I got a largish martini for around $8 (actually $6.50 comes to mind, but it had to be more than that, didn't it?) made with Tanqueray gin. I think that you New Yorkers will find that restaurant prices are similarly, shall we say, "realistic"?

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: gfr1111

                                Thank you grf111, I agree. Sarasota Bradenton is not NY, however we have many great restaurants. The atmosphere is different, the style different, the culture different and the food different. Don't expect NY, but there are many great individual restaurants, fancy, creative, simple or whatever style they are which offer many wonderful dishes. FL isn't NY and our restaurants are not like NY restaurants (thank god, just my opinion), but some offer food which I feel is equally impressive. I've eaten in the best of the best ... and personally, I have found just that in some of our local "hole in the wall" restaurants To me food is the star, not the atmosphere.

                                To me, fish should be fish. Most of your "top" restaurants try to hide it with sauce and spices and garnishes. A true Floridian enjoys fish cooked naturall with just a few seasoning to bring out the natural flavor. To me that is a chef who knows how to cook.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  HICKORY HOLLOW
                                  ON RT 301 GOING EAST

                                  1. re: irwin

                                    Other then this, why haven't you chimed in???????

                                  2. re: kchurchill5

                                    You must be demented. The restaurant "scene" in Bradenton and Sarasota is a cruel joke. None of the restaurants mentioned on this site would remain in operation if located in Dade, Broward or Palm Beach Counties, let alone in NYC!
                                    The operative word to best describe the local fare: Garbage! There are no Italian, Chinese, Deli, Thai, Pizza or French restaurants worth a damn! And, I have tried them all.

                                    1. re: retiredmd

                                      The husband (chef) and wife who run Maison Blanche had a Michelin star in Paris before they moved here. I dined there just last night and it's terrific. If you've tried that (French) restaurant and don't think it's worth a damn, then with all due respect....

                                      I do agree with your views on Italian -- although I did dine this week at Divino and it's "OK". In Sarasota, I've never tried Chinese, Deli, Pizza and Thai but my suspicion is you're right. In other categories, Sarasota has a bunch of good restaurants. The big name that is always brought up in Bradenton (proper) is Ezra and I wouldn't return.

                                      Maison Blanche
                                      2605 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228

                                      1. re: Longboat

                                        Unfortunately, it appears that Ezra's has gone down hill. Don't forget Ezra moved on to his own restaurant called SOMA, and the old Ezra belongs to his Ex......
                                        Have not heard great things about Ezra in the past few weeks, so I am not sure I want to try it or not.... I miss their round choc chip cookies they bring to the table after eating, providing you do not order dessert. I don't think the Ex knows how to cook, so she is dependant on a chef, and we all know how that works !!!!!!!

                                      2. re: retiredmd

                                        Funny...on the current "good places for foodies to retire" thread, I specifically mentioned Dade, Broward, and PB counties, and someone referred to THEM as "garbage". I of course disagree. I do the best I can in Manatee County but I am crossing the Skyway bridge with greater frequency just for food.

                                        1. re: retiredmd

                                          So you telling us there are no average restaurants in Dade, Broward or PBC's ?

                                      3. re: gfr1111

                                        H I C K O R Y H O L L O W O N R T 3 0 1

                                        1. re: irwin

                                          I've been a regular at Hickory Hollow for a few years. They do a great job with their grilled/blackened tilapia of all things. Very casual, fairly inexpensive and an abundant selection of side dishes. Not a fancy dinner place...but great for lunch.

                                          1. re: hibeta

                                            I'm near Hickory Hollow; a good plate of food. Go 3 more miles north on 301 to C&K Smokehouse BBQ in Parrish for takeout ribs, smoked mullet, and sauces, and I give you a double-your-money-back guarantee. The genuine article. A small, unassuming building on the right.

                                        2. re: gfr1111

                                          I totally agree. We aren't NY and don't pretend to be, but we are just as good to me. Phillippi Creek oyster bar in Sarasota, similar to Anna Maria, great oysters, fresh fish caught that day, a good pitcher of beer on the water, relaxed. I'll take that anyday.

                                        3. Give Pinchers Crab Shack a try in the Palmer Ranch area - Clark and Honoree. Kind of a hidden gem, really good fresh seafood priced reasonably. The manager said they owned their own seafood facility in PIne Island (near Fort Myers) and I can attest to the quality of the Stone Crab and the Grouper. Both were excellent. Very casual and no frills but good.
                                          For a more upscale bend - try Selva Grill or Ceviche.

                                          1. My husband and I just moved from NYC 3 months a go and I have to say we have found some great places to eat in Bradenton/Sarasota. Here are my two cents:
                                            Greek: Olympic Cafe on Manatee Ave. Family owned business with great saganaki, greek salads, and a great lunch selection on seafood. Not Astoria, but pretty good.
                                            Thai: Thai Palace on Cortez. Their curries gives Spice Market a run for its money.
                                            Cuban: Habana Cafe on Old 301. Daily specials that are amazing and fresh ingredients.
                                            Sushi: Taste of Tokyo on Cortez. Pretty good selection of rolls...although they take forever.
                                            Vietnamese: Pho Cali in Main St. in SRQ. Tasty vietnamese and diverse menu. The fresh summer rolls are the best.
                                            Seafood: Moore's in Longboat and Water Front Restaurant are pricey seafood but worth it. For a relaxo lunch, Rod 'n Reel and Star Fish in Cortez Village

                                            We unfortunately have found no good Chinese or Mexican (Two Senoritas is ok but not really authentic). If anyone has any suggestions I would be super thankful!

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: SySer

                                              Thanks for the reccs! We are moving next Wednesday (Thank god, minus 20 in the Tri-State area tomorrow with wind chill), I am making a list to eat through in our earliest possible opportunity.

                                              1. re: SySer

                                                For authentic Mexican...at least I think it might be authentic....try El Adobe on 41 in Sarasota. Some really like it...others seemingly despise it. We enjoy it. For Chinese....try Mrs. Chen's buffet, also on 41 in Sarasota. Might not be authentic, but good reputation for quality and very tasty.

                                                1. re: hibeta

                                                  For good real Mexican go to Acapulco Tropical Super Market, on 1st street(301). They do not have a restaurant but you can get some great fresh, guac., tortillas and daily specials. Across the street is a decent cuban counter service place as well. Jose's Real Cuban Food out Cortez on the left past 75th street is solid as well. Jose's parents moved to Tampa from Cuba in the 50s or 60's. For some inexpensive and tasty Pho go to Miss Siagon on 301 just north of Fruitville. The best BBQ is to be found on the weekends in various places on the side of the road, my favorite recent find is a church/meeting hall on 301 just north of the PAL(police athletic league), it has a killer mustard based sauce that you can get hot or mild on ribs or chicken. Good Luck! And keep on spreading the word about good eats in B-Town.

                                                2. re: SySer

                                                  I forgot about Olympic Cafe!! Yummy!! Joto's by the Airport is pretty good also for Japanese and sushi.

                                                  1. re: SySer

                                                    The place out on SR 70 going towards lakewood ranch is awesome for mexican.

                                                    1. re: SySer

                                                      The best Chinese I've had since I moved here from NYC is in Tampa at Yummy House on Water Street. It's excellent, and we met a slew of NYers who were also there when I went back in November. It was recommended to me by a colleague who's from Hong Kong.

                                                      I've heard that you can get good Mexican at Two Senoritas on Main Street in Sarasota. I cannot vouch for this since I have not been there.

                                                      Personally, I'm still looking for decent Indian. I keep hearing good things about Gateway over on Hillview, so hopefully I'll get a chance to try that out in the off-season when places are a little less crowded.

                                                      Last, but not least, Nancy's BBQ will be opening at the old Pannini Press in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. I was a customer when she was having her "stealth" setup and am really looking forward to visiting her at a sit-down restaurant.

                                                      And I second the Olympic Cafe. It's very good.

                                                      Yummy House
                                                      2202 W Waters Ave Ste 1A, Tampa, FL 33604

                                                    2. I grew up in Bradenton, the best for greek salad and pizza is Demettrio's on Cortez by US 41. The best seafood Harbor House is no longer there and neither is Fast Eddies but Anna Maria Oyster bar is pretty good. Mr Bones on gulf blvd is good but it does look like a hole in the wall. Noreen's in East Bradenton used to have the best subs and crab rolls but they have been bought by new people not sure if they are still as good. Mixons has the best sandwiches and fudge. On my recent visit I did find a newer place to me called Cortez Kitchen out by Star/Bell fish markets really good and reasonable. Miller's for great pie and comfort food. Panda Garden for chinese and Basils has pretty good chicken.

                                                      Anna Maria Oyster Bar
                                                      6696 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton, FL 34210

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: btowngirl

                                                        Bologna Cafe Has reopened for the season Claudio And Barbara take the months of July/August half of Sept. to go back to Emilia Romagna, (Bologna). This week they are having "Tigella" Night, $20.00,served with their imported salumi, (proscuitto de parma, Mortadella, salami), cheese, etc and house made mozzarella, olives, vegetables, etc.http://bolognacafe.webs.com/apps/cale...

                                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                                          My husband and I went to Bologna Cafe for lunch last week and had a very disappointing experience. I was looking forward to the homemade pasta I have had at Bologna Cafe for dinner but I was very disappointed with the lunch menu. The menu had no pasta (except an $18 lasagna which did not come with anything else!). Almost all of the menu was cold, overpriced dishes. My husband and I decided to order the $19 antipasto platter which said it serves a minimum of two people for a cost of $19. The meats, cheeses, and olives were good (not great) but we both left hungry. We were shocked when the bill came and was over $50 for lunch which included a shared appetizer and 2 drinks. They charged us the $19 twice since there was two people! This is not what the menu said. Since this is a very small restaurant and there were a few other tables there, we chose not to make a scene and paid the outrageous bill. I later sent an email to Claudio who has not responded. Very disappointing. I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone. The lunch menu is the same as Belle Gente which is the restaurant that they opened in downtown Sarasota that failed -- due to the overpriced and poorly planned menu.

                                                          Bolognaia Cafe
                                                          5770 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34231

                                                          1. re: ParenteN2

                                                            Sorry to hear that, as we have had so many good meals there, but never lunch. We had the Tower, if that is what you are referring to and it was good but a huge amount of food for one person. I can't imagine that they would charge you twice for the one appetizer, that is not good. We were at Druvals last night and Bologna's looked quite busy; hope it was just a mistake by the waiter.

                                                              1. re: irwin

                                                                I was beginning to worry about you. Look at my post below dated Nov 9th. Love the place ...even better then GG. They did a wonderful job with the decor, it is just charming. Food as usual was marvelous. I guess Ceci left you a message on someone else's machine ...I have a feeling that she was calling all their old customers to tell them of the move, as they have not advertised, at least no advertisement that I have seen. It was a Thur. night and they were busy ... of course we closed the place up at 9:30 which seems to be south Sarasota time for bedtime! LOL!!

                                                                1. re: Mother of four

                                                                  Thank you so much.......
                                                                  I will call her, and have told eveyone that Wes is one of the best chefs in Sarasota. So happy they reopened.
                                                                  I wish her lots of success.

                                                            1. re: ParenteN2

                                                              Just read a post about someone coming to Sarasota with kids and this is what they had to say, they are referring to Bologna.
                                                              "One change is that the Antipasto Italiano listed as $14.90 in the article is now listed as $19 on the menu and says that it serves 2. In fact, they charge you $19 x 2 = $38 for an appetizer! I complained that their menu was deceiving but they refused to respond."

                                                              Permalink | Report | Reply

                                                              By ParenteN2 on Nov 10, 2010 01:02P

                                                              119 W Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202

                                                              1. re: Mother of four

                                                                Mother of Four.....Not quite correct; the Antipasto Tower is priced at $19.00 each for a minimum of 2 persons. If you have had it; it is an assortment of ONLY imported meats and Italian cheese (Speck, Prosicutto both San Daniele and Parma, Porchetta, Prosicutto Cotto Rovagnati, which is the best, sopressa hot and sweet, Salsicce Toscana, Mortadella, again Rovagnati,) As for Cheese, included are 3 year old Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Toma from Piemonte,Gorganzola dolce and his freshly made Fior de Latte (mozzarella) and a few others that I cannot recall.In addition there are cured olives of several notable types, fresh vegetables for dipping in the house made Ricotta, and it is served with freshly made bread.
                                                                This place is NOT Carabba's or Olive Garden! rather it is as close as you will come to authentic Italian food as served in Emiliga Romagna, (bologna)
                                                                For some at dinner just the Antipasto and a glass of wine are sufficent for a light true Italian, NOT Italian American, stuff your face, dinner. So before one is critical of a business, as one poster had written, who misread the menu, that tries to bring to the American guest the true taste of Italy, consider the lengths that this restaurant goes in order to provide an alternative to the typical low price "Ready to heat and serve", portion controlled, so-called Italian food; that is ubiqutous in the dining landscape offered at a how low can you go price! The way I see this place; it is a brief reminder of the pleasant times spent in Italy, food, conversation (brush up on my Italian), and small osteria atmosphere.
                                                                Obviously, I find this restaurant to be the best example of true Italian food and wine in all of S.W. Florida!!!!!

                                                          2. re: btowngirl

                                                            Panaficio's new location finally opened in Gulfgate area of Sarasota The new location puts on the WOW factor, compared to the Main Sreet loc . it is a contempory space, larger that the original with an expanded menu, BUT the Pizza is still The BEST around, either by the slice or a 20 inch whole pie. there is a Espresso Bar, (Pop was not there when I visited), I had a slice of Ricotta and Spinach Pizza and a sandwich, it was at 2:00 PM on Saturday and the place was packed.

                                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                                              I hope they do well.... They work real hard and have excellent product.

                                                          3. It's just a Bar, although they do have three of them around the Sarasota area, called Geckos. The best kept secret is their Sesame seared Tuna on the appetizer menu for $10. Really good if you are in to Sushi!

                                                            1. I just read in the paper today that Ceci and Wes Duval owners of the closed Deja Vu restaurant have opened a new restaurant called Druval's. It is on 41 in the small strip mall where Bologna's is. Previously it was called Jackie's Diner. It sounds like they might have down scaled a bit, but since the website isn't up it's hard to tell. I believe the location on Weber after moving from Gulf Gate killed them. Hopefully the location is much better and they will do well here. The food was always very good, especially the fish entrees...never had a bad meal, but stopped going when they moved to Beneva and Weber.

                                                              5758 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231

                                                              Jackie's Diner
                                                              5758 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34231

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Mother of four

                                                                Just came back from a wonderful meal at Druvel's. The restaurant is charming, Ceci looks terrific (lost a lot of weight). the food is wonderful, the same as Deja Vu always has been.
                                                                **Irwin, Ceci is trying to get hold of you, give her a call.
                                                                Although this post has the restaurant located in Gulf Gate it is no longer there: on 41.

                                                                5758 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231

                                                              2. I'm a periodic visitor from NYC to Bradenton (gf's mom lives in town) and I think the way to go around here for an entirely satisfying food adventure is to try out the small neighborhood Mexican and Central American places, either in Bradenton or Palmetto. One place I've discovered totally by accident is a Honduran grocery / takeout (with brightly hand-painted signage but uncertain name) at 2908 9th St. West in Bradenton. I think it is at the former site of Bob's TV-VCR and earlier, Jim Cook's TV Repair, for those familiar with the area. But they make a wonderful Honduran standby called the baleada, a tortilla concoction with eggs and spicy meat (different types are available) for all of $2.50 per order! And they make other Honduran and Mexican dishes. It's real Honduran home cooking, and it's a very friendly place run by a couple (I think), but definitely a bit austere. Another place I enjoy that's maybe a little more accessible is the Red Barn flea market which now has two food stands (one indoors, one outdoors) serving very authentic Mexican food - tacos, tortas, gorditas, etc. (They pass my "lengua" test - if a place serves lenga - tongue - tacos, it's the real deal!)

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: r.l.weisberg

                                                                  That's Maria's at the Red Barn. Best tamales and quesadillas in the area, and great fresh salsas.

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    I like Maria's as well. The fruit w/chili pepper and lime next door is also excellent.

                                                                    1. re: CFishman

                                                                      Maria's Tamales are the BEST around!!!!!!