By Jane Bartnett
Your first visit to Breakfast at Victoria’s may well be the start of a brand-new tradition. You’ll want to go back again and again.
Located at 4141 S. Tamiami Trail in the center of the Chili’s Plaza shopping center, this cheerful and welcoming restaurant and Italian bakery serves breakfast, brunch and lunch, as well as delicious breads and pastries that are ready to take home. It also caters and can accommodate small private parties.
With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant can seat up to 125 people.
“We are family friendly,” said chef and co-owner Eleanora Raso, who along with her husband, Luigi Raso, runs the new eatery that the couple named in honor of their first daughter, Victoria. The story of how this new addition to the Sarasota breakfast and lunch dining scene came to be is as endearing as the food.
Owning a restaurant was a long-time dream for the young couple, who met in the kitchen of another Sarasota restaurant in 2013. Both are trained chefs who studied at a leading culinary school in Italy. Both bring years of experience in the restaurant industry to their new business, which opened in September.
A native of Naples, Luigi spends the majority of his day in the kitchen. Eleanora, who hails from Florence, manages the front of the house. Although the two chefs excel at creating many dishes, both say that baking is their passion.
Sarasota became their home because of Eleanor’s family ties. As a child and young adult, she vacationed in Sarasota for more than 30 years. Her grandfather first came to Sarasota in the 1950s and became a U.S. citizen.
“I always loved coming to Sarasota,” Eleanora Raso said. “I grew up here, and in Italy.”
The couple married and are now the parents of two young daughters. “Sarasota is our home,” she said.
Last year, the couple’s plans to create a restaurant and bakery that paid tribute to their Italian heritage, as well as to their new home, came true. Their restaurant and bakery blend classic American breakfast and lunch favorites along with Italian delicacies that highlight the regional cooking of the couple’s Italian homeland.
“All of our ingredients are locally sourced,” Raso said. “We believe that we have created very interesting menus.”
For breakfast, diners can choose from eggs, avocado toast, pancakes and waffles, along with French and Italian style breakfast items. American coffee as well a cappuccino and espresso are available. There’s also a kids’ menu.
For lunch, there are platters and paninis, a pear salad with walnuts and gorgonzola cheese; roast beef with blue cheese and spring mix; seared tuna, olives and tomatoes and more.
Tempting brunch offerings are more exotic and include truffled eggs; eggs Benedict; seared tuna on a brioche bun; fried soft-shell crab; pork belly with sautéed black figs and a vinegar/honey glaze; Millefoglie di Melanzane, a grilled eggplant dish with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil; as well as avocado toast and Cornetto French toast with sautéed apples, brandy and cinnamon topped with creme fraiche.
Mimosas, bellinis, Aperol spritzers and sangria, Italian white and red, as well as sparkling wines, are sold by the glass or the bottle.
Tempting desserts, baked fresh daily in the kitchen, include a selection of pastries, tiramisu, ricotta e pera, caprese al cioccolato, cheesecake alle fragole, mousse al cioccolato, torta della nonna and profiteroles al cioccolato.
On your way out the door, stop at the bakery counter and select from a variety of fresh baked breads that are ready to take home. Bestsellers include focaccia, ciabatta, multigrain cranberry and Sfilantino — “a softer version of the baguetteit which is crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside,” Rosa explained.
Speaking of baked goods, “We also have wonderful croissants. People say that they’re the best in town,” she said.
Raso’s personal favorite baked item is her own biscotti. “It is a Florence specialty. Very soon, I’m going to start making cranberry biscotti and apricot biscotti,” Rosa said.
Luigi Raso’s favorite is his whipped ricotta and roasted pear cakes and cannolis that he creates with orange zest, and fills with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips.
This month, with Easter fast approaching, Breakfast at Victoria’s will begin taking orders for Italian specialty breads and cakes, including Pastier Napoletana and Casatiello Bread.
To pay tribute to the community, Eleanora Raso said all law enforcement, first responders and healthcare providers receive a 10% discount at the restaurant.
Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Closed on Mondays. Call (941) 923-6441 or visit them at facebook.com/BreakfastatVictorias.