Chianti Ristorante Italiano celebrates 10th year with special menu, live music

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Chianti Ristorante Italiano, whose name pays homage to the wine made in the Italian region of Tuscany, is an ode to the wonders of Tuscan Mediterranean cuisine.

Chef Stefano Castaldo prepares handmade pasta as he discusses dinner menus with owner Olga Larina. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

This year, the Clark Road bistro is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To toast the milestone, Chianti owner Olga Larina and executive chef Stefano Castaldo, a graduate of the Italian Culinary Institute near Venice in Italy, created a special brunch menu that is a new addition to the restaurant’s daily offerings.

On Saturday and Sunday, brunch diners will find a special selection of cocktails as well as a full array of Tuscan-inspired salads and pastas, as well as egg dishes such as Florentine and tomato frittata.

For dessert, Chianti’s own tiramisu and zabaione with mixed berries are on the menu.

 “Tuscan cuisine is based on simple, fresh, peasant food,” explained Chianti sous chef Luigi Raso, who works alongside Castaldo in the kitchen.

Pasta, he advised, is an important staple of Tuscan cuisine. At Chianti, pasta takes center stage.

Here it is made in-house, by hand, from scratch, every day. With pasta as the basis for many of Castaldo’s celebrated Tuscan dishes, his Chianti lasagna is a customer favorite.

It also happens to be Larina’s favorite dish. She spoke of her pride in offering customers Chianti’s signature dishes, as well as the fish and meat dishes that celebrate Tuscany’s heritage of land and sea. 

Describing Tuscany as a land filled with olive and lemon groves, she noted that the food at Chianti celebrates the flavors of Tuscany.

“It’s not complicated, but always fresh and delicious,” she said.

Larina took ownership of the restaurant from long-time owner Eduardo Pizzuti in 2018. Since then, she has increased the restaurant’s emphasis on fresh and imported ingredients used in its in-house recipes and signature dishes. Calling Stefano’s Tuscan recipes “very memorable,” she said they “set us apart.”

 The restauranteur, who came to Sarasota in 2017 from her native Kiev, Ukraine, brings a youthful spirit to the dining spot. Drawing on her professional 20-year background in business and law, and as an owner and manager of a large and successful catering business, Larina has added new dishes to the menu as well as nightly entertainment.

“A different performer is here every night,” she said. The current list includes a classical violinist, jazz and Flamenco guitarists, and a classical keyboardist.

 In the near future, Chianti will offer outdoor dining and a new Italian brick pizza oven will be added to the kitchen.

“Pizza is not currently on the menu,” Larina said, “but, when the brick oven is in, Stefano will create his own special pizza.

“I can’t wait for that day and I know that many families will enjoy that.”

She also plans to add a children’s menu and make greater use of Chianti’s private dining room that is separated from the main dining space.

“Our happy hour is also a customer favorite,” said Larina. “We have drink specials as well as appetizers from chef Stefano’s kitchen that we serve only at the bar.”

 Chianti also features daily dinner-special entrees.

Its “Sunday sauce” features slow-cooked and tender meatball, sausage and rib, served with Chianti’s San Marzano tomato sauce over rigatoni for $17.95.

On Monday, meatballs are the special item. They are served atop a large plate of spaghetti or rigatoni with Bolognese sauce for $12.95.

The popular lobster-Tuesday dish features a 1-and-a-quarter-pound Maine lobster served with red potato and a vegetable, along with the diner’s choice of salad or New England clam chowder, for $19.95.

On Wednesday, Parmesan is the star of the show. Choose from eggplant parmesan for $11.95, chicken parmesan for $14.95, or veal parmesan for $17.95.  All parmesan dishes are served with rigatoni marinara.

Chianti’s ravioli-Thursday menu features chef-prepared, house-made pasta pockets for $14.95. Diners may select from three types of pockets.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Chianti offers specially prepared seasonal chef’s specials.

 The restaurant is open daily from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner, while brunch hours on Saturday and Sunday are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy hour is each day from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Takeout service is available with pick up at the restaurant or by requesting DoorDash home delivery. Reservations and take-out orders can be made by calling (941) 952-3186.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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