Prologue: “When you dine out as much as Jill and I do, I needed a REALLY special restaurant the night I was going to propose. It had to be someplace intimate and cozy, with better than “great” food. After all, I had to get this right. Everything had to be absolutely perfect. . . “
That’s why I chose Andrea’s – The Art of Food and Wine!”
That was over two years ago, and . . . “Yes!” Jill accepted my proposal, not only continuing our love affair with each other, but also forging a new love for Chef Andrea Bozzolo’s delightfully delicious and delectable, indescribably wonderful food. Okay, maybe I’m overselling here, but, then again . . . maybe I’m NOT. All I know is, I made the right decision to dine at Andrea’s that night, as well as every other time we’ve returned to Andrea’s, whether for one of his popular (and always sold out) wine dinners or a meal out with clients.
A little backstory on Andrea himself. Chef Andrea Bozzolo is the real deal. An honest-to-goodness Italian from Pallanza in Piedmont, Italy, Chef Andrea is known for his signature contemporary Italian dishes. Chef Andrea focused on that “fresh from the Cucina” taste, making his own breads and pastas daily, and using organic produce, local seafood and meats whenever possible. To do this, Andrea’s changes their menu with the seasons, generally every three months, to insure guests are served only the best of the best. And Andrea is passionate to perfection – not just about the food – but also his patron’s personal satisfaction with their dining experience. I can’t fail to mention that Andrea comes out of the kitchen frequently throughout the evening; to chat with all the guests, pour some wine now and again, making sure everyone is enjoying their evening and creating the feeling you’re having dinner at a friend’s house. That’s exceptional! And not only that, but once Andrea has met you, he seldom forgets any of a returning guest’s name!
When we first heard about Andrea’s, I guess about 4 years ago, you couldn’t get a seat without reservations during Snowbird Season, so we waited until the summer to visit this 30 or so seat restaurant, tucked into a strip mall along Siesta Drive, just across from Westfield Southgate Mall. Since then, Andrea’s has added additional space to accommodate the busy tourist season, so locals like Jill and I can usually find a table. Still, after hearing that Andrea’s was offering a summer prix fixe three course meal for $27.95 every Monday – Thursday for the rest of the warmer months, well. . . that earned a huge WOW from us!
From the house baked bread, served alongside a black olive tapenade and chick pea hummus, we were blissfully embraced by Andrea’s passion and attention to detail with each dish presented at our table. Beginning with the elegantly sublime imported Italian Parma Ham (aged for 24 months!) wrapped around fresh cantaloupe and lightly drizzled with aged Balsamic, we knew we were in for another perfectly put together meal. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of ordering this classic Italian dish.
While Jill was enjoying the Parma Ham and cantaloupe starter, I was hoping to finish off the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio before she noticed. Wrapped around mixed organic greens dressed with blue cheese and a horseradish dressing, the Carpaccio was possibly my favorite starter of the night, and that’s saying something, because Chef Andrea sent out two others for us to sample. Fortunately for her, Jill got a couple bites or two before she knew there were more tastings to hit the table. I
think know my diet is in trouble here — no way I’m not trying anything Chef Andrea recommends.
We were also privileged, and I do mean privileged, to sample two other fabulous appetizers, the Sautéed Wild and Domestic Mushrooms with Swiss Chard, red spinach, and pancetta, artistically served in a delicious shell of crispy, baked Parmesan cheese. Like the Three Tenors themselves, this was the food equivalent of rich, earthy harmony. There were three different mushrooms lightly sautéed with the greens, and we took turns breaking the Parmesan “bowl” into bites that we then used to scoop up the mushrooms. Let’s just say this is a truly unique homage to the mushroom.
And who would think that there is anything new or different to be done to a Caesar salad? Chef Andrea, that’s who! The Organic Baby Kale “Caesar Salad” with whole wheat croutons was dressed with the absolutely the best creamy dressing I can remember. Andrea, could you please bottle that up, and share the love? I’m in for a bottle or two. . . just saying!
It’s worth mentioning here, that our server this evening, Antonio, was both warm and polished, and added even more of that welcoming feel to this evenings feast. (Did I mention that we love this place?)
Next up was the main entrees, and you know Jill just wouldn’t be happy without Andrea’s Famous Meat Ravioli. Served with a butter, sage and Parmesan cheese sauce, this is the kind of dish that is so otherworldly good it makes the hair stand up on my arms! I guess they call that “getting the goosies?”
The Daily Pasta Duo had my absolute favorite on one side – a dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth home-made gnocchi, which was tossed in another fave of mine – basil pesto. Complementing that was a beautiful Tagliolini Carbonara, in all its egg-and-parmesan glory made all the more perfect with crispy pieces of pancetta. Can you say “Dynamic Duo?” (Of course you can, just not with your mouth full.)
Once again we were fêted with a couple of the other Main Courses. How does Chicken, stuffed with Fontina Cheese, Wild Mushroom and truffle essence, lightly breaded and served with a light lemon sauce sound? (Take your time, I’ll wait…yeah, I thought so too.) This is edging toward “death by deliciousness.”
Lastly, well almost lastly, we were offered the Piedmont Mix-Grill. One of Chef Andrea’s signature dishes, (named after the area of Italy where he was born) this is best described as an amazing “carnivorgy” of Italian sausage, pork belly, lamb chop (medium rare of course), and chicken skewered and grilled. I think there were even a few bites of sirloin steak added in. . . but you know Andrea by now, don’t you?
The third course (like we needed a third course in the midst of this foodie nirvana) capped off the evening with simple homemade coconut ice cream. Believe me when I say that the taste of the toasted coconut makes all the difference between a “coconut ice cream,” and a coconut ice cream from Chef Andrea!
This evening reminded me of a day, not too long ago, when we were stopped at a traffic light and Chef Andrea zipped past us on a scooter. “Look! Look! Isn’t that Chef Andrea?” Jill asked. “Doesn’t that remind you of a celebrity sighting in Hollywood?”
I have to agree. While celebrities in other parts of the world may grace the stage or the silver screen, here in Sarasota some of the brightest stars are wearing chef jackets and creating cuisine that is certainly award worthy! My suggestion? Get to Andrea’s – The Art of Food and Wine before the reservations start stacking up again!