Tonight after a long drive home from Casey Key, I feel like dining in an ambiance that is dimly lit, dark wood, and just off the main drag of downtown Sarasota. Caragiulos Italian Restaurant at 69 Palm Avenue is the perfect place, and I can usually find a parking space out front after 8 pm.
If you live in Sarasota, it’s likely you’ve eaten at one of the restaurants the Caragiulo brothers own. Whether it’s Shore, Owens Fish Camp, Nancy’s BBQ or authentic Italian at Caragiulos, each offers a unique atmosphere with consistent quality food.
Several seating options are available to me, I choose the lounge/bar over sitting outside or in the main dining room. The bar is a long L shape with a handful of tables right beside it. I find a quiet spot in the middle of the bar, where I can be to myself. The US Open is on the framed television in case I want some entertainment. Sometimes I just want to be alone with my thoughts, and Caragiulos is always a good place for this.
Today I am going to pass up my usual ‘Old School’ Chicken Parmigiana and go for the Orrechiette Pugliesa; sausage aromatico, charred broccoli-raab, cherry tomato and pecorino for $13.50. Instead of my usual Cabernet, I go for a glass of the Valpolicella Classica Bertoni Doc 12 for $9.00. The bartender gives me a taste to see if I like it, I am a fan! Proud of myself for going outside my comfort zone all around.
Waiting on dinner, the $6.95 Vasetti (mini-jars with Tuscan toast) I ordered of Gorgonzola & Walnut Mousse with Amerna Cherry Jam arrives. It is incredibly light, fluffy and full of flavor. It’s so good, I ask to take home the little that’s left in the jar. I’m sure I’ll find something at home to spread it on.
Dinner arrives as two fella’s I know walk in and sit a couple seats down the bar from me. They say their hello’s and ask what it is I am eating and if it’s any good. I tell them the dish is very hearty, spicy, full of flavor and enough for me to have at least two more meals over the next couple days. They go ahead an order one bowl and wind up splitting it. The one man tells me, “I eat out every night, and you know I eat at some amazing places, but this is one of the best dishes I have had.” I have to agree with him. I get my to go box and move on to the Spumoni; pistachio, vanilla, black cherry ice cream, rum cake for $6.50.
I feel complete. I didn’t over eat and since I live a few blocks away, I even take a portion of my Spumoni with me. Caragiulos always seems to relax me, I sometimes feel like I am in a restaurant that you would find in Chicago or New York. The bartenders are always friendly and offer intelligent conversation and even though I am a Table For One, I never feel alone. It’s a home away from home and since it’s family owned and operated with authentic recipes, I always come back for the food and atmosphere.
My check totals $38.47 which is a pretty good deal for a glass of wine, appetizer, dinner and dessert. The menu has something for every budget and even includes gluten free and vegan dishes. You can view the lunch and dinner menu online at Caragiulos.com