That’s right – Goodfellas Café & Winery. Not Wine bar, or Wine Cellar, or Winehouse. A true winery, right here on Clark Road in Sarasota! Who woulda thunk it?
This terrific new hot-spot has an interesting backstory, and a remarkable M.O. when it comes to the cuisine. In short, Goodfellas is a by-product of the “great” (or not-so great, if you ask me) recession of recent years. About 18 months ago, after local high-end motorcycle builder Frank Vespa saw a downturn in his custom motorcycle business, he turned a negative into a positive and transformed this unlikely spot on the north side of Clark Road, just east of McIntosh Road into what has to be one of Sarasota’s most unique dining destinations. And here’s why:
When the crew at Goodfellas say everything is made on premises, they mean everything. Pasta made fresh daily, house made sausage, meatballs, sauces, infused olive oils and vinegars, and even a selection of coffees where they roast green coffee beans and grind them right in their deli. And, let me digress, this is also very much a winery, featuring a dozen varietals and an impressive selection of less traditional fruit infused wines, and ice wines, just to widen the fan base. (Ok! Ok! The wine is not made fresh daily. But everything else IS!) You can even order a case of their wine with your custom label!
So how cool was it to walk in past the fresh pasta kitchen, dessert bar, coffee stand and olive oil and vinegar bar on the way to our table? Unique? I think so!
Having heard a colleague rave that Goodfella’s pizza was the absolute best in Sarasota, we obviously had to share one as our starter. All of the pizzas are thin crust, which is our absolute fave, so we happily chose a small Neopolitano, much like a Margarita pizza, but topped with sliced mozzarella instead of shredded. The secret is that Goodfellas’ pizzas are cooked in an 800F degree, wood-fired oven that’s so hot they built it outside the restaurant so they wouldn’t overheat the joint! This means your hand tossed pizza will be ready in about 1 ½ minutes, and results in a fantastic rustic-looking pie, complete with some nice charring around the edges. And here’s a heads up — if you don’t like a bit of scorching on your pizza crust, you should order something else. At 800 degrees, whatchagonnado? Looking around, the char didn’t seem an issue as orders for the pizza special were flying out every few minutes. Who wouldn’t like a 16 inch cheese pizza and a bottle of wine for only 22 bucks! (Extra toppings are $1.50 each)
Now having some sense of the Goodfellas’ experience, we made a point of ordering a side salad so we could play at the olive oil and vinegar bar. There are 5 or 6 different balsamic blends and 8 or more olive oils to choose from, so you can mix and match your own dressing! We dressed our salad with a blood orange infused olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar. Can’t do that at home!
For entrees, I chose the Eggplant Rollatini, a deep dish sausage dish served alongside a generous serving of penne, while Jill went with the Linguine Vongole, a huge portion of the house made linguine and a good pound of littleneck clams in an elegant white sauce. It’s worth mentioning here, that the linguine is not what we expected. This linguine had curly fringe on the edges! It was explained that this is more accurately called a mafaldine pasta, which is long, narrow and flat, like linguine, but with crimped edges along the sides. Think linguine meets a Thomas’ English Muffin with all the “nooks and crannies”. The curvy attributes of the mafaldine pasta make it all the better for holding more sauce to every bite, my friends. And that scores a delicious in our book!
My Rollatini had a few pieces of un-sauced penne peeking out, so I went for those first. I kid you not when I say this pasta doesn’t need anything to be enjoyed. Perfectly al dente, I could eat a mountain of the house made penne on its own. But then, I’d be cheating myself out of the pure enjoyment I found in the sauce. Deep, rich, robust are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind. Hand crushed Roma tomatoes, with basil, cilantro, garlic, and a couple of bottles of the Winery’s best red, and then simmered for hours. Mamma Mia! Somebody needs to get a call in to Guy Fieri! He needs to profile this place on the Food Network!
We finish this fabulous repast with a couple of Goodfellas –roasted coffees, and the proverbial “to die for” cannoli in all its dreamy mascarpone stuffed and chocolate drizzled glory. Sure, we had to pack up two large to-go containers from our main courses in order to have room for dessert, but we didn’t care! All the way home we just couldn’t stop talking about how much we enjoyed the dining experience, the service and our meals at Goodfellas Café and Winery. Give’em a try! We think you’ll agree!