Made in Italy opened February 27 with co-owners Chef Giuseppe Del Sole, from the Isle of Ischia, and Alessandro Di Ferdinando, of Abruzzo at the helm. The two men strive to offer Italian cuisine “as it was meant to be.”

This is the first restaurant venture for these two, who have been friends for 12 years, but not their first experience in the industry. Both worked at Sarasota’s Café Epicure, where Giuseppe was the pizza chef, though their dream was to open a place of their own.

The restaurant is bright and lively . . . and intimately small. One of the tangerine walls features a large rustic chalkboard on which the speciali del giorno are written. There is a gorgeous communal table placed in the center of the restaurant with tables arranged against the walls and along the front windows. There are tables on the covered sidewalk as well. We were seated at the only open indoor table on a bustling Saturday evening—the table closest to the wood-burning brick oven. It got a little warm but we enjoyed watching pizza after pizza being assembled and plated.

The assortment of imported cheeses and Italian dry cured meat ($11.95) was tempting, but to start our dining experience we ordered the olive all’ascolana ($6.95) because “homemade meat-stuffed breaded olives” sounded unusual and interesting. Six olives the size of hush puppies came served with a small bowl of tomato sauce. Their aroma was inviting and they taste great. The slightly sweet meat stuffing offers a nice complement to the tartness of the olives, and the variety of flavors and textures come together wonderfully.

I always appreciate a good insalata di Cesarino, or Caesar salad ($5.95), and I ordered one with high expectations. It was a nice portion with fresh crisp lettuce, croutons and four pieces of shaved Parmesan cheese on top, but the dressing completely lacked flavor and bite. Except for the cheese, this was a disappointment. I later learned from Alessandro that the Caesar salad doesn’t exist in Italy except in places like Rome where they make it for tourists. It is believed this salad was first created by Italian chef Caesar Cardini in Tijuana, Mexico.

Nadia, our friendly and knowledgeable server, graciously answered our many questions and gave us plenty of time to look over the menu. For our entrée, we chose the tagliata di manzo con rucola e scaglie di parmiggiano ($19.95). Thinly sliced grilled New York steak surrounds a mound of roasted potato wedges, all topped with arugula and shaved Parmesan. The steak was ordered medium-rare; it had excellent flavor and was melt-in-your mouth tender. The arugula adds an incredibly fresh element through its bitter/peppery tang and fresh crunchiness. Accents of halved grape tomatoes and fried onions complete the dish.

For pizza, we selected the 14-inch individual Caprina ($12.95) featuring tomato sauce, goat cheese, pancetta and basil pesto. This pizza was a work of art and after just one bite we proclaimed it to be one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had. The hand-tossed crust was topped with the perfect amount of tangy sauce. The creamy, tart goat cheese works very well with the salty pancetta, and the drizzle of basil pesto over the top brings it all together. Delizioso!

If you’re dining with a larger party, you might want to consider a pizza al metro (pizza by the yard). Giuseppe and Alessandro claim that Made in Italy is the only restaurant in the United States to serve pizza like this. No need to worry about everyone deciding on the same toppings; this pizza can be sectioned into four to appease a variety of tastes.

As we were working our way through the steak and pizza, the presence of an adorable man known as Sam “The One-Man Band,” decked out in colorful attire, a straw boater, red alligator shoes and sporting a pencil-thin mustache, was announced (via a loud whistle) from the back of the restaurant. He strolled around the restaurant playing his accordion, delighting diners with popular tunes. Sam provides another fun touch to the establishment.

We didn’t order any pasta dishes, but a wide variety is offered including linguine cozze e asparagi (linguine with mussels, asparagus and garlic, $14.95), orecchiette con broccoli e gamberetti (orecchiette with shrimp, broccoli and fresh tomatoes, $14.95), lasagna alla Bolognese (lasagna with bechamelle and meat sauce, $14.95), and a ravioli of the day ($15.95).

To end our evening, we looked over the Dolci section of the menu and selected the Caprese ($5.95), a flourless dark chocolate cake infused with ground almonds that’s popular in the Isle of Capri and along Italy’s Amalfi coast. Dense and rich, if you like the combination of chocolate and almonds, this dessert is one you don’t want to pass up.

Made in Italy is a dream come true for lovers of true Italian cuisine.

Made in Italy

117 West Venice Avenue  |  941.488.8282

Sun.–Thu. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

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