Gabbiano the great

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Award-winning café continues to shine bright with array of solid selections

Cafe Gabbiano is one of Siesta Key’s most celebrated restaurants. Known far beyond our shores for its fine wine and cuisine, diners will discover more than 200 different wines and award-winning Italian/American cuisine.

In 2023 the landmark dining spot, located in the corner of Davidson Plaza in Siesta Village, received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence; Open Table’s Diner’s Choice Award; and Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Award. In 2020, Wedding Wire gave Cafe Gabbiano its Couples Choice Award.

From June 1 through 14, during the annual Savor Sarasota countywide event, diners visiting Cafe Gabbiano can enjoy the restaurant’s special $40 three-course prix fixe dinner that includes an appetizer, main course, and dessert.

Cafe Gabbiano and Miguel’s on the south end of the island are the only two Siesta Key restaurants taking part in the 2024 program.

Entering Cafe Gabbiano’s welcoming and friendly atmosphere is like stepping into a small corner of Italy. At the main entrance of the 4,000-square-foot interior there is a bright climate-controlled dining room and bar that can accommodate up to 150 people. The restaurant’s interior contains private rooms and cozy intimate dining spaces. On any given day, a special event is being celebrated and more than one bride and groom have toasted their special day here.

This spring, a sea of gleaming Ferraris in a rainbow of colors filled the parking lot when more than 30 members of the Gentlemen’s Drivers Group and the Ferrari Drivers Group Sarasota came to dinner. For the occasion, the pastry chef created a special three-tiered cake, decorated in Ferrari colors, topped with the iconic Ferrari logo of a black horse on a yellow background.

Cafe Gabiano

“It was a night of amazing food, great people and spectacular cars,” recalled Cafe Gabbiano manager Kris Pierce.

Quarterly wine dinners are a tradition at Cafe Gabbiano.

Said Pierce, “This spring we had Tom Porter with us for our Porter Family Vineyards Winemaker Dinner.” Porter, who visits Sarasota and is a friend of the restaurant’s owners, owns the Napa Valley vineyard. During the four-course meal, Porter discussed his wines that were served with each selection.

“We began with caviar and shrimp paired with chardonnay,” said Pierce. “Then, tartare made with Allen Brothers beef, which we consider to be the best in the county, was paired with petite sirah. Allen Brothers short ribs with bone, or seared ahi tuna, and garlic whipped potatoes followed, paired with cabernet. For dessert, chocolate soufflé was paired with Porter’s Cave Dwellers Blend.”

Cafe Gabiano

Pierce paused as he thought back on the evening. “It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had,” he said.

At the time of this interview, both of Cafe Gabbiano’s owners were away on business. Marc Grimaud, a certified sommelier, was in Verona, Italy attending the annual Vinitaly — the international wine and spirits event. Peter Tracy, who brings many years of senior restaurant management experience with national brands to his role as general manager, was attending a major restaurant event.

Pierce attributes Cafe Gabbiano’s extraordinary success to the two men’s vision.

Grimaud took ownership in 2012 and Tracy joined him as co-owner soon after. Together they have shaped the restaurant into a place that is widely known for its wine, food and welcoming atmosphere, drawing in visitors and local residents alike. “They’re great people,” said Pierce.

Grimaud also serves as board president of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a group of restauranteurs dedicated to supporting local independent restaurants.

“We’re known for our service,” said Pierce. “Our people go the extra mile.”

Discussing the magic that takes place in the kitchen each night, Pierce spoke with admiration about the restaurant’s acclaimed head chef, Paolo Di Costanzo. Hailing from the volcanic Italian isle of Ischia, 19 miles north of Capri, Di Costanzo’s fresh, handmade pasta, seafood, beef, and chicken dishes have won praise. “His sauces are made from scratch,” said Pierce. “Everything is fresh here. All of our desserts are also made in-house.”

Pasta dishes range from truffle or lobster ravioli to linguine pescatora. Beef, chicken and fish entrees are also on the menu. Allen Brothers filet mignon and a 12-ounce center cut veal chop are featured. Chicken dishes include pollo Milanese.

Fish lovers will find Mediterranean seabass, grouper, Scottish salmon, and freshly sourced fish of the day.

Families are welcome and every “bambino meal” comes with a gelato sundae.

Daily happy hours being at 5 p.m. and run until 6:30 p.m. Signature cocktails are $10. Happy-hour appetizers and drinks, available only at the bar, are $7.

To learn about Cafe Gabbiano’s special events and wine dinners held through the year, sign up for email notifications at cafegabbiano.com.

All food and wine is available “to go” and wine shop purchases, when purchased to go, are 30% off. Off-site catering is also available and reservations for on-site events can be made online. Cafe Gabbiano is open for dinner daily, including Christmas Day, from 5 to 10 p.m. Call (941) 349-1423.

All photos provided by Cafe Gabbiano.

Cafe Gabbiano on a spring evening.
A cake to celebrate the Ferrari Drivers Group.
The Ferrari Drivers Group and Gentlemen’s Drivers Group dinner.
Fine dining at Cafe Gabbiano.
Sent from my iPhone

Jodi Hockert-Lotz and John Dankievitch enjoy martinis at one of the restaurant’s outside tables. The couple was visiting Siesta Key from Westport, Massachusetts. 

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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