Mart is a big fan of quoting other foodies, so it’s not surprising to find a list of quotes he’s kept in a notepad by his computer.
“There’s nothing more romantic than Italian food,” is one such quote, credited to Elisha Cuthbert. I’m guessing that’s what inspired Mart to book the night before Valentine’s Day for a dinner out with his wife. (Moi!)
Cassariano is one of those restaurants that’s always busy. So, fortunately, we had a reservation, and, also, fortunately, Mart elected to sit at a table outside. It was a beautiful, picture-perfect evening, what the Realtor in me calls “Chamber of Commerce weather.” If you live here, you know what I mean.
Settling in at our table, we were happy to see one of our favorite people, Emil, working at Cassariano. He’s no doubt a favorite of a lot of dinner guests, as we couldn’t nab a seat in his section.
A duo of Prosecco is always a great way to start a romantic dinner, and . . . so we did! A crisp, cool sip felt so right while enjoying the early evening breeze.
Each of us selected an appetizer, and after discovering we were both of the mood to order seafood, we narrowed the choice down to two entrees that we both had wanted to try. Sharing is something we’ve learned to do, as most happily married couples will agree.
Mart wanted to start with a classic Caesar salad, which comes with a twist at Cassariano Italian Eatery. Instead of croutons, they sprinkle the top of the romaine with polenta bites! What a great alternative! Mart was thrilled! I have to agree. The Caesar dressing was obviously housemade, but those polenta bites made this a truly unique experience. Delish!
I chose the Arancino di Riso as my starter and trust me when I say this . . . If I could have purchased a bottle of the white truffle cream sauce that came with the Arancini, I would have bought a gallon’s worth. WOW! Two perfectly toasted risotto arancino balls were framed by the small dish of that white truffle cream sauce, and when the arancino was gone, Mart and I used bread to mop up all that truffley goodness. Again . . . wow!
For my entree, I chose Cassarino’s Sea Bass Piccata. This delightfully flakey fish was topped with a lemon foam, and hosted on a bed of sauteed sliced potato, zucchini, red peppers and carrots, with four gorgeous caper berries framing the dish. Looking back, I didn’t think twice when ordering a piccata dish, as I’m a huge fan of sea bass no matter how it’s prepared. But looking up piccata in the dictionary, I had to giggle. Piccata in Italian, is the feminine form of the word piccato, which means “annoyed.” (When used in reference to a way of preparing food, it means “sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter, and spices.) I just find the definition of the word to be a funny coincidence when I’m out celebrating Valentine’s with the hubby!
Mart went all in for the Zuppa di Pesce, a fish ‘stew,’ if you will. Cassariano’s fresh and flavorful tomato broth hosted several jumbo shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, and Atlantic cod, adding the exact acidity that enhances milder tasting fish. It was such a pleasure to see how happy Mart was with his dish. You know your dinner date is thrilled when all you see is the top of their head! Between all his oohs and aahs, the rolling of his eyes in appreciation, and his repeated request that I “taste the scallop,” “try one of the shrimp,” etc . . . I understand why the Suppa di Pesce is one of the most popular dishes at Cassariano.
Finishing off the evening enjoying friendly conversation with the couple next to us, (and their cute dog Chloe, who quietly sat in a stroller) we decided to split a dessert. Choosing to balance the flavor of our seafood dinner with our dessert choice, we split Cassariano’s homemade Lemon Torte with Limoncello after dinner drinks. There’s something so appealing about sweet and sour, and the way your mouth puckers after tasting lemon while demanding another bite, or more! This was one instance where I gladly gave up chocolate. And don’t get me going about the raspberry coulis on the plate!
To quote another foodie, Andy Nusser, “Let love be your food, and food be your love.” I think they cover both at Cassariano! Well worth a visit, no matter what the occassion!
Note: We had dinner at the Cassariano in Venice. There’s also a new location at 243 N Cattlemen Road in Sarasota, right across from the University Town Center Mall.