Tag Archives: mozzarella

Papa Nick’s Pasta & Pizza: 4940 Fruitville Rd, Sarasota, FL

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wine papa bread papa chowder papa salad paparanch and house papaspinach shells eggplant rollentini penne

 

For 3 months, Gabriel and I lived practically across the street from Papa Nick’s. It wasn’t until the night before we moved to another town that we finally got around to trying it. It was fairly late for dinner (by Florida standards) and there was just one other group there when we arrived. We sat in the main dining room but quickly asked to be moved because it was freezing in there. The waitress was happy to find us a table in a warmer section and we sat down to look at the menus.

The prices are very reasonable, with most entrees around $13 and including soup, salad, bread and pasta. The menu, however,  is nothing special. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect of a strip mall Italian restaurant. We ordered a glass of Chianti to share- but found it to be extremely watery. I guess for a $5 glass, we shouldn’t have expected anything great. The bread was at least a day old already and had a stale crust. The clam chowder was watery and sort of gummy with no real clam pieces and only an occasional bite of potato. It was also sort of luke warm. The salads were mostly iceberg lettuce with a couple of ripe grape tomatoes and a slice of cucumber, and were served with plastic squeeze bottels of dressing. Classy.

Our main dishes were actually quite good- but pretty much everything is quite good when it’s smothered in loads of mozzarella cheese. I should definitely give credit where it’s due however, and the truth is that the tomato sauce is fantastic. It’s exactly how I like it with a slight sweetness to it and a smooth, thick, consistency. The spinach/ricotta stuffed shells were the favorite over the eggplant parmesan, but really both were enjoyable.  The pasta was typical boxed penne- and at that point I was too full to want more carbs.

Overall, for about $15 per person including tip, I guess I would recommend it in certain situations…For instance, if you are starving from packing all day, close by, and with less than $20 per person to spend, give it a shot!

 

 

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Mozzarella Fella: 1668 Main St Sarasota, FL

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As a recent NYC transplant, when I read excellent reviews about a new sub shop in Sarasota, I do not take it lightly. When I find out that the owner is from Brooklyn, I take it even more seriously. When I see mouth-watering pictures posted on their well-maintained Facebook page, I start making my plans to go. Everything I’ve been reading about Mozzarella Fella has been a rave, and I am very happy to report that I agree. It’s a fantastic new addition to Main Street.

My father (who is also a Brooklyn native) and I met up yesterday for lunch and arrived to find a packed house. Apparently it has not taken long for people to catch on to the new hot spot for lunch, but the line moved quickly and they were actually ready to take our order sooner than we’d made up our minds. Everything on the menu was appealing, and the case of lasagna, meatballs and various prepared salads was gorgeous, with each dish looking better and better. I was in the mood for eggplant and had (If I remember right) 3 different eggplant-based subs to choose from.  I settled on the eggplant parmigiana sub and a half iced tea/half lemonade. My father was quickly sold on the special sub-of-the-day: veal cutlet with fresh mozzarella and marsala sauce. We placed our orders and went to sit at a 2-top to wait for them to be brought out to us.

About 10 minutes later, our sandwiches arrived wrapped in deli paper. My drink was forgotten and I decided to just go grab a bottle of water from the fridge instead of re-ordering it. I came back to unwrap my sandwich, which turned out to be a mozzarella, arugula, tomato and basil oil sub instead of the one I’d chosen. It actually DID look pretty awesome, but it was not what I’d ordered so I brought it back to the counter and told the owner, who was very apologetic and said she’d correct it right away. A little while later, she brought my correct sub along with the mistaken one- and it definitely made up for the error that she let me keep it to bring home for my honey. (who, incidentally, was quite pleased) In the end, I decided to eat half of each which was a great consolation. More to try! Both subs were excellent. The mozzarella is definitely the standout ingredient- SO creamy and somehow light and rich at the same time. The eggplant was crisp and not overly breaded. The bread has the most perfect consistency- both chewy and soft with a toothsome crust.

All that said, one bite of my dad’s sub and it was quickly obvious that the special of the day is no joke. Seriously. Next time, I’ll let the chalkboard decide what my order will be. WOW. This was unbelievable. The veal (which I don’t normally order) tasted so incredible that any animal-cruelty-related guilt quickly subsided. Sorry vegetarian friends. Sorry cute little baby cows. I’m sorry that you are so delicious.

It was tender, but with the most delicious, crispy, crust. The melty mozzarella on top dribbled down the sides and mixed into the savory marsala sauce with juicy, plump, sliced mushrooms. The crusty bread sopped up all of the extra sauce and cheese and worked both as a catchall and as a compliment. This was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It was, however, totally messy. My dad and I agreed that if you decide to eat there, it would be nice to have your lunch served on a plate instead of wrapped in paper. A paper plate would be fine, but the mess that eating on paper makes was kind of annoying.

Aside from the 2 little ordering errors with my overlooked beverage and my sub confusion, this place totally rocks. I am sure that they will get more and more efficient with the ordering and accuracy, but the food can’t possibly get any better. I will absolutely and positively be back, and hopefully by the time I return, reviews like mine and the soon-to-be-countless others won’t have made it completely impossible to get in.

Bravo Mozzarella Fellas! Welcome to Florida!

Toscano’s: 1544 Second Ave. New York, NY

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I picked up a Groupon for $15 that was supposed to be good for a free large pizza, a salad (caesar or house) and 2 beverages for take out, dine in or delivery. When we arrived and showed the coupon to our waiter, we were informed that it was a mistake on Groupon’s part and was only supposed to be good for delivery. We expressed our aggravation and the waiter went to see what he and the manager could do about it. While he was checking, the best table in the restaurant (in the corner, by the open front window/walls) opened up and we re-seated ourselves there to wait for the verdict.

He came back a few minutes later with what we thought was pretty darn awesome news. They apparently don’t do large pizzas in-house, which was why the coupon was a problem, so instead they offered us a salad, a small pizza, 2 beverages AND an appetizer! Wow! To us, getting to try an extra dish was a total bonus, and we ended up really psyched about the mistake.

We started with some lovely foccacia, brought out in a basket with excellent olive oil and a swirl of balsamic vinegar. We also ordered 2 iced teas which were remarkably good- especially when the waiter took the extra time to hunt down some honey for us at our request. For our salad option we chose the house, which was mixed mesclun lettuce, grape tomatoes and red onions with a light balsamic vinaigrette. A nice first course to start out with; a fresh, clean, light beginning to the carb-y meal ahead.

Next, we ordered the special baked gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce for our appetizer. It came served atop some leafy greens that really helped to cut the heavy, richness of the dish. It was quite a treat, and tasted a lot more like fried cheese than gnocchi to me. Although it was baked, not fried, it had a crisp breaded crust on the outside that added a great consistency to the creamy inside. The sauce on top was creamy and decadent, and by the time we finished this and our salad we weren’t sure how much of our pizza we’d be able to eat.

I should mention that during each course, our extremely friendly, charismatic and attentive waiter stopped by to check on us, chat about how we were liking our meal, and make sure we had everything we needed. We soon found out that Chris is also a local realtor (which I will definitely keep in mind if I ever decide to leave my current apartment) as well as an opera singer. He’s not only a great server, but also a really fun and interesting guy- and if you’re lucky enough to sit at one of his tables, I’d highly suggest getting to know him a bit.

Our pizza arrived hot, melty and with a perfectly golden brown crust. The mozzarella, as Chris informed us, is handmade by the father of the owner with their old family recipe, and you can truly taste the love that goes into it. I adore family owned and operated businesses for the integrity and pride that is so clear in their service and food, and this was no exception. The pizza was delicious, not at all greasy or over-seasoned. It was made just right, with fresh tomato sauce, arugula and grilled chicken and of course, the wonderful mozzarella. Even though we’d predicted we’d surely be taking some home, we cleaned the plate and felt happily full and satisfied afterwards. We did not have that over-stuffed feeling you get when you’ve just polished off a typical NY Pizza. No, this was not grab & fold pizza at all, this was real food.

At the end of our meal when Chris came to check on us a final time, I introduced myself to him and gave him my Carey’s Culinary Adventures card. They’ve only been open for a month or so, and I figured they’d appreciate knowing that I’d be putting some nice words up about them. As a gesture of gratitude, Chris brought over 2 glasses of Chianti for Gabriel and I to sip, and I thought it was a very sweet way to end a great experience. Thanks Chris! There is no question that I’ll be back to try more of their offerings. They had quite an extensive and appealing menu and are apparently adding more to it over the next few weeks. Although we had a fantastic coupon this time, and felt like we’d just polished off about $75 worth of food and drinks for a mere $15, I would be more than happy to pay full price for food this good and service this entertaining. Welcome to the neighborhood Toscano’s!

 *photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html