Monday, March 16, 2015

Andrea's Italian Restaurant in Sarasota - I Love It

The other night, my wife and I joined two other couples for dinner at Andrea's (, an intimate and authentic Italian restaurant on Siesta Drive in Sarasota. All of us enjoyed our meals. Mine was superb.

Andrea's had been recommended by one of the couples who joined us because of a previous delightful dining experience there.

I tried and loved two Italian dishes I had long wanted to try - Vitello Tonnato and Veal Ossobuco. They were fantastic. My wife had the Veal "Three Musketeers" Milan style - three types of breaded veal cutlet. She enjoyed her meal, but did not consider it exceptional.

The Vitello Tonnato appetizer is an interesting dish - a very thin slice of veal in a creamy, tuna-flavored sauce. It is from the Piedmont (Piemonte) Region of northwest Italy. The dish sounds strange, but it is fantastic. I can't wait to have it again. Andrea's offers it in two sizes - small for $15 and large for $30.

The Ossobuco with Saffron Risotto was absolutely incredible. This is another traditional dish from the Piedmont, specifically from Milan. It comprises veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine, and broth for $30.

The three types of breaded veal in my wife's main course were - with parmesan cheese, with caperberry and lemon, and with fresh greens and tomato. It was $23.95. She also ordered a delicious side of roast potatoes for $3.95. 

Andrea's is known for its wonderful ravioli. One of our fellow diners let me try one of hers. It was terrific.

Another fellow diner really enjoyed her veal saltimbocca topped with fresh sage and parma ham, and cooked in white wine, for $23.95. (Saltimbocca means, "jumps in the mouth.")

The wine list at Andrea's includes a nice mix of Italian wines, but prices are on the high side. However, I found a reasonably priced and tasty Langhe Nebbiolo - a 2012 Damilano Marghe for $50. The Langhe is in the Piedmont and is the best wine growing area of northwest Italy. Nebbiolo is the wonderful grape used in some of Italy's best reds - Barolo and Barbaresco. (I have read that Andrea's charges a $25 corkage fee.)

After dinner, I had a very nice espresso for $3.

Andrea's pastas are home-made, and the restaurant offers a special ravioli-of-the-day.

The reason that so many of the above dishes and the wine I had are from the Piedmont is that owner and chef Andrea is from the Piedmont town of Pallanza on Lake Maggiore.

In addition to dishes from the Piedmont, Andrea's offers dishes from other parts of Italy; e.g., Florentine T-Bone Steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) and Pappardelle with white truffle and wild mushroom cream sauce. (Pappardelle originated in Tuscany.)

I would strongly recommend making reservations if you plan to try Andrea's.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Tuscan Menu with Florentine Focus

Last Sunday, I prepared a Tuscan meal with Florentine focus for 13 members of our family, including three visitors from the frigid north. (Given the warmth of our visitors' personalities, I'm surprised the north is so cold.)

The menu I created was Tuscan and Tuscan influenced. Three key dishes were Florentine style. I chose dishes which were relatively easy to make and delicious. I also chose several I could make in advance.

The following is the menu I created:

Appetizers / Antipasti ("Antipasto" means "before the meal." The plural form is "Antipasti.")
- Crostini with soft goat cheese, fig jam, prosciutto and basil leaves.
- Crostini with olive "pâté" (a mixture of chopped black olives, lemon, and olive oil - prepared a day in advance.)

Primo (First course)
- Carabaccia - Florentine Onion Soup, which some say is the predecessor of French Onion Soup. (Prepared the previous evening.)

- Arista alla Fiorentina - Florentine-style pork roast

Contorno - vegetable
- Carote in Stufate - braised carrots with pancetta

Dolci - Dessert
- Semifreddo alle Fragole - Strawberry Semifreddo (Prepared several days in advance.)
- Schiaciatta alla Fiorentina - Florentine-style cake

Formaggio - Cheese
- Tuscan pecorino cheese from Vicchio in the Province of Florence. I found it at the fantastic cheese department of Mazzaro's Italian market in St. Petersburg, FL.

The wines I served were
1. Red
- 2012 Redi Argo et Non Briareo Rosso di Montepulciano (from Montepulciano in Tuscany, not Montepulciano d'Abruzzo)
- 2011 Vecchia Cantina Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (The same winery which produces the first wine.)
- 2011 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico
2. White
Michele Chiarlo Le Madri Roero Arneis (This white is from the Piedmont. If I'd have given it some thought, I would have picked up a Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany.)

The coffee I served was an Italian roast from Mazzaro's Italian supermarket.

Schiaciatta alla Fiorentina - A Florentine-Style Cake

The other night, I prepared a Tuscan dinner with Florentine focus for wonderful family visitors and local family members. I decided to do a double dessert - Strawberry Semifreddo, which I've mentioned in earlier postings, and Schiaciatte alla Fiorentina - Florentine-style Schiaciatta. I thought the two worked very well together.

Schiaciatta is a dessert bread/cake. It used to be served at Carnival time, but is now served year round. ("Schiaciatta" is pronounced - "Ski ah chat tah." "Sch" in standard Italian is pronounced like the "sch" in "school," not the "sh" in "shine.")

The recipe I chose was from a web site called, "Under the Tuscan Gun." - ( In addition to the recipe, the couple who created the web site have also made a video of how to prepare this recipe. I recommend watching the video before baking the cake.

The recipe is pretty straight forward and easy. I have made it twice and it turned out fine both times. When serving the bread you can use a variety of toppings. The traditional way is with powdered sugar. Alternatively, we tried strawberry jam. We also topped it with whipped cream.

I plan to try other recipes from this web site.



- 2 1/2 cups of flour (all purpose, unbleached)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 7 tablespoons of warm whole milk
- 3 eggs
- the juice and zest of an orange (I used a blood orange.)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
- confectioner's sugar

1. Preheat oven to 360⁰ Butter well an 8&1/2 by 12 inch baking pan. I used a ceramic dish. If you use a ceramic dish rather than metal, reduce the cooking temperature by 25⁰.

2. Separate the yolk and egg whites.

3. Scrape the orange zest and squeeze the orange juice into a large bowl.

4. Place the egg yolks and all remaining ingredients except the egg whites into the bowl with the orange zest and juice.

5. Using a blender, whip the egg whites until the become a thick foam and fluff up. Then add them into the bowl. Work the mix very well, making sure there are no chunks of flour remaining.

6. Pour the mix into the buttered pan and bake it uncovered in the oven for 30-35 minutes. (Our oven took 30 minutes.) At 30 minutes, test the cake by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean and dry, the baking is complete. If not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes and test again.

7. After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool for half an hour. After the cake cooled, I turned the cooking dish over and put the cake into a serving dish. You can now top the cake and serve it. Instead of putting the toppings on myself, I put powdered sugar, whipped cream, and jam on the table, and let our guests apply their preferred topping.