Marcello Ristorante: King of the Kitchen

The server rolls over to the table a large chalkboard with several delicacies highlighted and flawlessly presents his chef’s specials for the day. Don’t ask for the “regular” menu. There isn’t one. The chalkboard choices for that night are the selections of food made by master chef Marcello Aquino, a transplant from Port Washington, New York (Long Island) to Sarasota since he was 18 years of age.

Open 11 years now in the corner of a small strip of stores 4155 S. Tamiami Trail, Marcello’s culinary skills have wowed patrons over the years, creating a frenzy of restaurant booking well in advance of a month each season for those who have come to expect only the best Italian food and an equally impressive extensive and impressive wine list featuring 500 wines from all over the world.

The atmosphere is intimate and inviting. The restaurant is small, which creates a cozy and romantic atmosphere. The staff is friendly and attentive, and they make sure that every guest has a memorable dining experience. For a large group, there is a private dining room in the wine room that can be reserved starting at $3K for those with discriminating taste and deep pockets (seats 12).

While the menu changes daily, many patrons prefer Gulf Shrimp & Lobster Homemade Pappardelle, Black Truffle Homemade Pappardelle, Lamb Ragu, Braised Pork Shank Osso Buco, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Grilled Octopus, Burrata, Shaved Truffle Beef Carpaccio, and Tiramisu (all homemade).
The average price range per person is between $31 and $60 for an entree (a la carte menu).

Why is Marcello Ristorante so special?

  1. The chef is the sole cook. Marcello Aquino is the restaurant’s chef, owner and sole cook, which means that he oversees every aspect of the kitchen. This ensures that every dish is prepared to his high standards.
  2. Marcello Ristorante is currently the only Italian restaurant with Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
  3. The menu changes daily. Aquino uses the freshest ingredients available, so the menu changes daily based on what is in season. This means that guests can always be sure to find something new and exciting to try.
  4. Marcello is both passionate about food and wine, and he and his staff create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for their guests.

Marcello’s history and stellar reputation in the Sarasota food scene is not new. Prior to opening Marcello Ristorante, he was the chef at Ferrari’s Restaurant, owned by his mother, Vincenza. Ironically, Ferrari’s opened its doors in 2005 in the same building and Vincenza quickly attracted an impressive restaurant following. Two years later she brought on her son, Marcello, who had just graduated from Culinary School, and he worked side by side with Mama, wowing the patrons with his extraordinary Italian, authentic dishes.

His passion for cooking can not be attributed solely to his culinary school training. Mama Vincenza shares that he was “transfixed” as an adolescent, watching her cook in the kitchen and prepare the family meals each day. “I remember rewarding Marcello with a Wok, cooking utensils, knives and anything cooking-related when he brought home good grades,” says Vincenza. “That’s what he wanted.”

Marcello’s mama, Vincenza, displays Marcello’s culinary creation when the mother/son operated Ferrari’s Restaurant in early 2000’s.

And so the Aquino DNA continues to permeate the restaurant scene in Sarasota, and Marcello is poised to be one of the best (if not THE best) Italian -bred chefs on the Gulf Coast.  Salute!

If you go:

Marcello Ristorante at 4157 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL . ((941) 921-6794. The restaurant accepts reservations over the phone and reservations are strongly encouraged. Expect a month waiting list during season.

Larry and Denise Kaplan of Port Washington, NY and Sarasota, love Marcello’s for its fine food and extensive wine collection. On this evening, they took photos to prove why Marcello’s should be on everyone’s “Must Eat At” List.

Andrea Mastrocinque-Martone is Sarasota Event Calendar’s Chief Editor. She is the former A & E Editor for Sarasota Observer Newspapers and is currently a public relations consultant.

Andrea Martone

Andrea Martone is a former Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Sarasota Observer Newspaper Group, as well as a former Editor-in-Chief of a Long Island (New York) newspaper chain. She moved to Sarasota 14 years ago after working as an executive in NYC in public relations and marketing. She currently is a Public relations & marketing consultant and President of Insightful PR. She lives and breathes all things art, culture, music food and wine and is proud to be the Executive Editor of Sarasota Events Calendar.

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