By Paul Roat
A bright, shiny new year deserves a bright, shiny new restaurant. Chianti Ristorante Italiano on Clark Road has been open since March and is indeed a shiny new entree on the Sarasota restaurant menu.
The restaurant is a family enterprise. Owners Josie and Edward Pizzuti met in Buffalo, N.Y. They moved to California and opened a string of Italian restaurants in the San Francisco area.
Upon their “retirement” to Sarasota — it lasted about a year — the Pizzutis decided to open a restaurant here. They were joined by daughter Anna Maria and Chef Al Massa, he of Michael’s-On-East and Eat Here fame.
Chianti features Tuscan cuisine. Flavors are bold, bright, and fresh. Homemade pasta is a highlight for both lunch and dinner entrees.
A good start to any meal is Caprese Salad, which is at Chianti is large enough to serve as an entrée. Heirloom red and yellow tomatoes are sliced. Fresh mozzarella, basil, and a choice of grilled chicken, salmon, or prawns may be added, all drizzled with olive oil, priced from $9.50 to $15.45.
Carpaccio is another feature. The thin-sliced raw filet mignon is complemented by capers and arugula, all again sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon ($10.95 lunch, $11.95 dinner).
You’ve got to try the meatballs at Chianti. They’re heavy on veal, ground to an almost pate texture, and served in a rich red tomato sauce. Try them as a side dish or as part of a main meal.
Lunch highlights include five Panini pressed meals complete with salad garnish and fresh fruit for $9.95. Popular is the Focaccia Grilled Chicken Breast Panino, with lettuce, tomato, and red onion. A meatless offering is the Focaccia Vegetarian, with eggplant, zucchini, fresh mozzarella, and sundried tomato pesto.
A popular dinner selection is the Sunday Family Dinner for $17.95. Expect to eat well on a traditional meal of meatballs, baby back ribs, and sausage, all served on penne or spaghetti.
The Veal Saltimbocca is a tasty blend of thinly sliced veal topped with prosciutto, provolone, and sage ($17.95 lunch, $22.95 dinner).
Another dinner highlight is Lamb Osso Buco, a lamb shank sautéed with vegetables and served on a bed of risotto for $28.95.
A hearty dish for seafood lovers is Spaghetti alla Pescatore ($26.95) with prawns, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels, and fresh fish. A six-ounce lobster tail may be added for an additional $10.
Chianti Ristorante Italiano offers an early dining special of a three-course meal with a glass of wine or a cocktail for $19.95 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. daily. Lunch at the restaurant is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
There is also a daily happy hour from 4 to 6:30 p.m. with half-price appetizers and reduced wine and drink prices.
Speaking of wine, owners Josie and Edward have given free reign to their Italian and California backgrounds with Chianti’s wine list. The wines are showcased at occasional wine dinners.
Reservations at Chianti, 3900 Clark Road, are suggested at 941-952-3186.
Why not make a New Year’s resolution to dine out a bit more in 2014 and gift yourself with a dinner at Chianti?