The recently opened Cassariano is a wonderful addition to the selection of restaurants in the UTC Mall area. This is the second area location for the Italian eatery. The Venice, Florida location has been in business for 12 years and there is a third location, in Long Island, New York.
When we arrived on a busy Wednesday evening, we were welcomed and seated by co-owner, Luca Cassana. As he walked us to our table, he asked if it was our first visit and gave us a brief history of the restaurant. He told me the other owner, Antonio Pariano, was in the kitchen cooking! The name, Cassariano, actually comes from a combination of both the owner’s names.
From the Cassariano website, “Driven by their strong passion for food and a deep love for their profession, these partners prepare authentic contemporary Italian cuisine while cultivating a casual, relaxed atmosphere for their patrons.”
I have to agree with their philosophy. On the night of our visit, every table was full. It happened to be Wine Down Wednesday, where all bottles of wine are half-priced. But, after we met our very friendly and helpful waiter, and tasted our meals, we knew it was also about the food and the service.
The menu really has something for everyone at the table. Starters (Antipasti) include choices like Burrata con Prosciutto—Imported Italian burrata, parma ham and Arancino di Riso—Risotto arancino (rice balls) with a white truffle cream sauce.
There is a minestrone soup and many salads to choose from, as well as traditional pastas, chicken and veal entrees and fish.
I started with the Insalata Rossa, which was salad with spinach, beets, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese topped with a balsamic glaze. I opted to leave off the cheese. The portion was very generous, definitely large enough to share. It was one of the best salads I have ever had. It was clean and simple without a heavy topping of dressing. My mom had the Caesar salad, which she said was fabulous. It was not heavily dressed either and not overpowering. She really enjoyed the polenta croutons, which made a surprising change from a traditional bread crouton.
For my entree I chose the Linguine Integrali all’Ortolana. It was a whole wheat linguine dish, topped with mixed veggies and tomatoes. The dish was simple and perfectly seasoned. I requested mine to be made without any cheese and it was cooked to perfection. Again, the portion was large enough to share and I took enough home for lunch the next day.
Before I left the restaurant, I spoke to the hostess briefly. I asked if all the staff were related because it sounded like they all spoke Italian. She said that they consider themselves a family and that it was a great environment to work in. She said many of the servers were not Italian but have picked up the language of those around them.
I will definitely be returning to Cassariano to try out more of their delicious menu. I would recommend a reservation, especially during this busy season. You can visit them online at cassariano.com . The UTC location is at 243 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota and their phone is 941-355-8615.
Photos by Heidi Schild.