Il Panificio is Magnifico!
When does a former gas station turn into an overwhelming hot spot for pizza lovers? When the family from Il Panificio turns the property into what clearly is poised to become the best new trendy and hip counter service restaurant in Sarasota.
I have always loved the pizza at Il Panificio downtown, but now, with an enormous space and quite a wide-ranging menu and stocked cases, the newest restaurant in Gulf Gate offers specialty subs, hot pressed focaccia, salads, calzones, spaghetti and meatballs and a slew of daily specials. Oh, and yes, an even larger selection of pizza, by the slice or 20-inch specialty pies.
Open only three weeks, with NO advertising, the new Il Panificio is packed, opening for breakfast pizza (baked with eggs and cheese, with your choice of sausage and/or green pepper—my advice, go for both!) and breakfast sandwiches served on their own fresh-baked rolls.
Their kitchen is enormous, ready to take on full-service catering and a private dining room in the near future. The ovens are straight from Italy and everything is made in-house. The night we dropped in, along with about 200 or so other people (all word of mouth, by the way), we tried the chicken Milanese, steak kebob and Gorgonzola-stuffed portabella mushroom (both nightly specials), along with chicken Parmesan, a sausage grinder, a slice of ricotta and goat cheese pizza and a slice of sausage. So what if we were only three people—I had to get the real scoop for our readers, and I say get there ASAP! The steak kebob on a fresh rosemary skewer was tender and delicious, skewered with grilled fresh vegetables. The chicken Milanese, while slightly overcooked, was still a good choice and enormous in its presentation.
Wine is served by the glass or bottle, and a charming young wine tender shared some samples in the packed dining room. Wait until you see the amount of outdoor tables, family-friendly next to a grass yard for kids to run around while they wait for their pizza.
Get ready, Gulf Gate, Il Panificio is poised to be the mecca of good taste in south Sarasota.