If there is any truth to the old saw “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, then the culinary corollary might be, “You can’t judge a restaurant by its outward appearance.” This is most definitely the case at Bellagio Ristorante.
Located on a small stretch of Washington Blvd. (Rt. 301) south of Ringling Blvd. that’s dotted with small shops, the front entrance to Bellagio is small and unassuming. If one were not specifically looking for the restaurant tucked back from the street, it could easily be overlooked. However one step inside and any preconceived notion you may have begins to transform. The décor is casual, warm and inviting, simple yet tasteful. White cloths on the tables with a simple vase and flower add a nice little “touch.”
Although the menu is large in its offerings, it is neither overly extensive nor overwhelming. In fact, the menu offers a range of appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, chicken and veal, with the latter two similarly prepared. For our meals we chose the following:
- Romana: Bellagio’s version of classic Caesar topped with homemade dressing and Parmigiano-Reggiano. $6.95 Fresh and crisp, nicely dressed, flavorful.
- Enzo: Fresh mixed greens and orange, served with house dressing. $6.95 Nicely presented with bread sticks and and ample amount of salad greens. The oranges gave it a refreshing lightness with a basic balsamic dressing.
Caprese: Vine-ripe tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. $9.95
Delicious tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, topped with basil from the herb garden out back and and served over a bed of baby spinach.
- Mixto Italiano: Grilled mixed vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and garlic with extra virgin olive oil). $9.95 A large-sized appetizer easily shared by two, well prepared and presented.
- Farfale: Farfale pasta, mixed vegetable and garlic in a light pink cream sauce with fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. $15.95 A very large-sized portion with nice color and presentation, rich with cheese and very filling. I had some to take home, which is a rare occurrence for me.
- Di Mare: Shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari sautéed in garlic, extra virgin olive oil and white wine with a touch of marinara sauce, spicy or mild, served linguini pasta. $19.95 A good-size portion of fresh seafood, slightly spiced just the way I requested.
- Barece: Grouper sautéed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and lemon butter sauce, served with fresh vegetables. $19.95
A very nice-sized portion of fresh fish, well prepared.
- Saltimboca: Sautéed veal scaloppini topped with prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and fresh tomato in a homemade demi-glace served with fresh vegetables. $19.95
A large sized portion with the right amount of cheese and prosciutto, beautiful blend.
Veal Marsala: Sauteed veal medallions in a Marsala wine sauce with mushrooms, served with fresh vegetables. $19.95
Three tender pieces of veal, well sauced, melt in your mouth goodness.
- Forestiera: Chicken breast sautéed with mushrooms and topped with a homemade demi-glace, served with fresh vegetables. $19.95 Ample portion size with a richness of flavor.
All of the dishes tasted were served on oversized plates with ample portions and simple presentations with the focus on the food. The bread was warm and fresh, served with an herb-seasoned olive oil for dipping. Although the wine list is not large, it is adequate, offering a range of choices. Clearly a family-run operation, the wait staff consisted of two brothers working in tandem, with their parents overseeing operations in the back. We found the staff to be fast and efficient.
Finding Italian food in Sarasota is not a difficult task. However, discovering an Italian restaurant slightly different from most is not as easy. Bellagio Ristorante, a casually simple, family-owned and operated restaurant is waiting to be discovered.
322 S. Washington Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34236