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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?
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.”
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.