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Immersione italiana - Forage: articolo di Laura Paquette per il magazine SRQ


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    A chef refills the bakery display with a basket of tomato, parmesan cheese and basil focaccia. A gelato cart covered by a striped awning awaits its next sweet-tooth-induced guest and on a lofted terrace, bright yellow lemons hang from the ceiling, bursting through green vines like stars in the night sky. Such is the magic of Osteria 500, Waterside Place’s new Italian restaurant. To describe Osteria 500 as a restaurant doesn’t do justice to the establishment. Friends Carmine Ussano and Giuseppe “Peppe” Del Sole teamed up with Bar Program Director Andrea De Dominicis and Executive Chef Salvatore Scaccino to create an immersive eatery that, for the duration of a meal, transports guests to their native country.

    Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

    Both Ussano and Del Sole are no strangers to the hospitality industry. While growing up, Ussano, who hails from Sorrento near the Amalfi Coast, helped at the hotel his grandfather operated, swimming in the pool with children from all over the world and acquiring a taste for hosting others. Del Sole, who started out in Florida as a pizza chef, owned Made in Italy in Venice and worked with his nephew Scaccino at Napulè, has lived in Sarasota for 20 years and is a veteran of the area’s food scene. “Lakewood Ranch has exploded with businesses, houses and population growth. For me, this location needed an authentic and family-oriented concept like Osteria,” says Del Sole. “There’s competition, but they are mostly chain restaurants with nothing real, not like us with our homemade bread, woodfired pizza and housemade pasta and desserts.” This commitment to creating a genuine experience for guests is rooted in the food and in the space itself. 

    “The opportunity came up to open at this location, and it gave me the vibe of being in Europe, where we have many restaurants with big patios right on the water,” Del Sole adds. Waterside’s open container policy means that guests can enjoy a drink on the patio or take a passeggiata—stroll in English, around the lake. A second patio bar built inside of an electric blue Citroën enhances the experience. Outdoor seating abounds for lunch and dinner services, and at a special high-top section of the patio, guests can sample from the aperitivo menu. Channel the al fresco atmosphere with Fiore di Zucca con Ricotta e Provola, a fried zucchini flower stuffed with ricotta, provolone cheese and basil. The crispy fried shell gives way to a creamy cheese filling, and each bite includes a vivid pop of golden flower petals that complement the outdoor setting. “Our clientele can watch the sunset from our patio while eating an aperitivo and having a couple drinks like we do in Italy,” he says. 

    Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

    The indoor dining space is just as charming as the patio. At the entrance, a vintage Vespa with a basket of lemons—a common motif throughout the space—and other goodies beckons patrons to hop on and zoom through the piazza-like interior. Picturesque videos of the country play on the walls via projectors, inviting guests to indulge in la dolce vita. The team imported almost everything from Italy, including the rustic wooden furniture, pizza oven, hand-painted ceramics from the Amalfi coast and the lovely patterned tiles in the upstairs terrace loft. 

    Like something out of a dream, a canopy of lemons decorates the romantic space, a nod to Ussano’s childhood days spent exploring the Sorrento lemon groves. It’s tempting to push aside the table and sway to the Italian tunes lilting through the space like Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. The Limoncello Spritz with housemade fresh limoncello, prosecco, a rosemary sprig and fresh lemon is the perfect dancing juice and pairs well with the Delizia al Limone dessert, a sponge cake with lemon custard and limoncello that was invented in Sorrento. “To make the limoncello, we let the lemon skins soak in alcohol for about four days, then we mix that with a simple syrup,” adds De Dominicis. “We make everything—from the pasta and pastries to the limoncello—upstairs. That’s where the magic happens.” 

    Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

    The pasta machine, brought over from Italy, churns out scratch-made delights that cast yet another spell over guests. Spaghetti, calamarata (a large, ring-shaped pasta) and other sauce-swaddled varieties showcase the flavor and texture of 00 Italian-imported flour, a finely ground variety made with wheat that has no pesticides. Osteria’s best-selling dish, the Calamarata con Crema di Burrata al Pistacchio e Salsiccia, or large pasta rings with burrata cheese, pistachio cream and housemade sausage, highlights this shape. A rich sauce coats each ring and verdant crushed Sicilian pistachios add crunch and sweetness to the dish. The sausage is made according to a recipe from Del Sole’s father-in-law, a butcher with whom he trained back in Italy. “I like to look at the stats,” says Ussano, “and every week I’m curious to see if maybe the Gniocchi alla Sorrentina (homemade potato gnocchi with mozzarella, parmesan cheese and fresh basil) or the Paccheri al Sapori di Mari (a large round pasta with mixed seafood, fresh tomato sauce, garlic and olive oil) tops the Calamarata, but it hasn’t happened yet.” 

    Perhaps the Pasta Patate e Provola, mixed pasta with potato cream, smoked mozzarella and black truffle paté, will be the next crowd-favorite. Pasta patate is a peasant dish, eaten by Italians who couldn’t afford to add meat to their meals. “When I was little, I wasn’t keen on eating vegetables or legumes, but that’s what my family provided for us. On Monday it was pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans), on Tuesday it was pasta e piselli (pasta and peas) and maybe on Thursday, it was pasta e patate. It was my nightmare, but I look back and wish I could have nightmares every day. Now, thank God, we are able to elevate these dishes that come from an old tradition, like in the Pasta Patate e Provola with the black truffle paté,” he adds. 

    Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

    A wine connoisseur, Ussano brings more traditions to diners through the establishment’s extensive portfolio of wines from across Italy. Offerings include wines from Tenuta San Francesco, an Amalfi Coast vineyard owned by his grandfather’s cousin. “It was my dream to have these wines over here,” he adds. “They have a special meaning because my grandfather owned part of the vineyard. I remember when I was younger, going and visiting his cousin and hanging out there with his family, and it’s a privilege to carry the wines here.” Stay tuned for wine dinners and tastings as Ussano continues to add to the restaurant’s portfolio. 

    Food with a dash of history makes Osteria unique. The team left Italian-American inventions like spaghetti and meatballs, veal parmesan and New York-style pizza off of the menu with the goal of presenting the most authentic culinary experience to guests, teaching and encouraging them to taste the difference between time-honored Italian dishes and their American cousins. “It’s a home away from home for us, and it’s a place for people who have been to or love Italy to come and feel like they’re on vacation again,” says Ussano. To that end, Osteria hosts Italian language classes for patrons who are preparing for a trip to Italy or want to discover more about the country’s culture while sampling its cuisine. “I tell clients who’ve been to Italy and miss it that here, we don’t ask for your passport,” he adds. “You walk through the door and feel like you’re back in Italy.” 

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