(2007) It used to be that mall food was associated with fast food, not fine dining. That’s changed in a big way. Nowadays, you’ll find many chain and independent restaurants either incorporated into the array of retail at a mall or saddled up next to it as free-standing eateries. In Sarasota, we’ve been ahead of this trend. Cosimo’s has occupied a spot at Westfield Southgate for about 10 years, offering both top-quality fast food (check out the lines for the pizza-to-go window) as well as a jazzy little bar and trattoria-style dining in its intimate rooms and “outdoor” vine-covered space.
We dropped into the trattoria on a busy day, wading through the lines at the pizza window, to take a spot in the bar and enjoy a leisurely dinner far from the crowds of shoppers.
As my gal pals and I ordered a very reasonably priced bottle of Sonoma chardonnay, owner John Ganley wandered over to the table to greet us—always a welcome touch—and recommend a pizza to begin our meal. All of Cosimo’s pizzas are hand-tossed, and the crust is ultra-thin and crispy. We went for the grilled chicken, which features grilled onion, chunks of chicken, artichoke hearts and briny kalamata olives under the cloak of fontina and mozzarella cheese. Not a drop of tomato sauce in sight. Delicious and satisfying, and just $12 for a 12-inch.
My friends moved on to salads, but I had been obsessing about pasta for what seemed like weeks and had committed myself to ordering the ultimate carb. Cosimo’s salads are entrée-sized and have all the elements of a well-balanced meal. The insalata moderna combines a mix of lettuces—romaine, radicchio, baby greens—with olives, grilled chicken and a sprinkling of chunks of fresh mozzarella. The dressing is definitely Caesar-esque and works well with the ingredients.
Tuscan Cobb salad tops a cacophony of greens with turkey, ham, Gorgonzola cheese, olives, artichoke hearts and bacon, of course. It’s presented as a classic Cobb, and the variations—the artichoke hearts and Gorgonzola—are enough out of the ordinary to give the salad real appeal. Dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette. Salads are available in two sizes, prices running around $9 for the small and $13 for the large.
Back to the pasta. I settled on the seafood brodetto, a choice that seemed low-calorie—shrimp and calamari, after all—tossed in fettucine bathed in a tomato saffron sauce. The fettucine was perfectly al dente, and the calamari tender, although the shrimp suffered in that department. I paired that with an order of grilled asparagus—perfectly done, crisp and flavorful, with a sprinkling of asiago cheese on top. It was an inspired choice. Pastas run from $10-$18.
Ganley returned as we stacked up our “doggie” boxes and insisted we share his very favorite dessert, zabaglione with fresh berries. Zabaglione is one of Italy’s gifts to the world, and nothing can top freshly made whipped egg yolks with Marsala and sugar. This is an excellent version, sweet, of course, but so light and ethereal, it was like a kiss on the berries.
COSIMO’S BRICK OVEN
Westfield Southgate, Suite 201, Sarasota
Visa, MC, AMEX, Diner’s, Discover