Caragiulos Italian Restaurant

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What can you say about one of Sarasota’s mainstays that hasn’t already been said or written? This is an uncontested A-Lister for SarasotaFoodies,  by any definition.

The brothers Caragiulo have been doing it right since 1989. Over the years I’ve directed countless newcomers  there knowing they’ll be treated to delicious “Italian-American Soul Food” in a friendly and  comfortable-as-your-favorite-jeans atmosphere.  Since that time  they’ve expanded their food service magic to Owen’s Fish Camp and Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, both downtown, and Shore Restaurant on St.  Armand’s.  (Check out their blog entries as well.)

Caragiulos Renovation (7) (Medium)

Indeed, Caragiulos is our downtown go-to place for years now. OK, I’ll confess that an added bonus for some time was seeing our favorite bartender, Jen, and all-around cool guy, Tyler, (a.k.a. my daughter and son).  But now that they have graduated college and moved, the real reason to flock to Caragiulos remains. . . the food.

The Calamari and Zucchini Fritti is always top of mind when we need a “little something” at happy hour. I’ve never known them to be anything but perfectly prepared.  On more than one occasion we’ve stopped by after work, or after a movie, to munch away to our taste bud’s content on Caragiulos’ calamari.  It has come to taste like ‘coming home’ to me, which is cause to wonder . . . “Mama Caragiulo?  You cooking back there?”

Caragiulos’ Calamari and Zucchini Fritti

A newer treat at Caragiulos is their “Boards” selections.  Each selection is presented on a large wooden plank, ranging from a Caprese board, to cured Italian meats and cheeses.  Always eager to please, Caragiulos allowed us to add a side of broiled chicken breast to our Vegetarian Board, which featured mixed grilled vegetables (in-season, of course) goat cheese and aged balsamic.  Ideal for any dieter, don’t you think?  The flavor is robust and healthy.

Vegetariano Board with a side of Chicken

Vegetariano Board with a side of Chicken

I don’t know if it’s the atmosphere or the pizza that made Caragiulos the stuff of legend, but let me talk about the pizza!

It’s prepared behind the front service counter, overlooking the main dining room. I invariably opt for the Pollo Pazzo, with blackened chicken, caramelized onions and three cheeses.  Unless I invariably opt for the Pear and Gorgonzola pizza with caramelized onions and white balsamic-honey drizzle.  Or . . . I invariably pick . . .  (you get my drift)

Pollo Pazzo Pizza

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

Heck, I could practically live on just the homemade focaccia bread and house salad that accompanies most every meal. I’ll bet the Caragiulo brothers have served as much focaccia as that  famous joint that has served “billions and billions” of whatever it is they serve.  At least I’m doing my part to get them there!

And if your diet has you staying away from pasta and bread, Caragiulos makes a mean char-grilled steak with a ‘taste like it was cooked outdoors’ side of roasted veggies.  My daughter is a huge fan of their salmon poached in olive oil over a fava bean succotash.   Caragiulos was our restaurant of choice when we took Jill’s mom out for Mother’s Day.  You see, Mom can’t eat anything with gluten, and Caragiulos was happy to accommodate her dietary restrictions and recommend items on the menu that would please her palate as well as her tummy.

Char Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Veggies

I could go on and on on about this quintessentially cool Sarasota landmark, but if you haven’t been here you “no gonna unnerstanda what you missing”.


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