“It’s my living room,” says Shannon Lugannani. “I’m here every night. It is like my home, and I want my guests to feel the same way.” Lugannani, 43, is talking about his restaurant, Word of Mouth, on Osprey.
Word of Mouth first appeared in these parts more than a decade ago on Clark Road. Today, there are three locations: Gulfgate, Cattlemen Road at Bee Ridge and downtown on Osprey. Jeremy Adams owns two of the restaurants and 50% of the third; Lugannani owns the other 50% of the third restaurant. The brand is well-established as a breakfast-and-lunch place; the news is that downtown serves dinner, as well.
Not only is there dinner, there is a different special every day priced at only $9.99, including bread, soup or salad, plus starch and veggie as appropriate. Tuesday it is prime rib, Wednesday is Italian, Thursday is brisket, Friday is filet mignon and Saturday is “chef’s choice.” And there are always one or two additional dinner specialties in the $12 to $13 range.
Lugannani’s strategy with the $9.99 dinner is to have people discover the restaurant.
“If a single person goes to the store and buys the ingredients for the same dish, he can’t cook it for $10,” he says. “My goal is to for them to say, ‘Wow … Word of Mouth’s $10 dinner is as good or better than a $30 dinner other places.’”
Food-wise, Word of Mouth includes healthier alternatives. Lugannani claims “ours is the best fruit cup in town,” because he goes to the market (Detwiler’s Farm Market on South Packinghouse Road and Palmer Boulevard) daily to buy fruit, and the restaurant makes it fresh every day. Their tuna salad is also house-made daily with tongol tuna, which has lower concentrations of mercury. There are lots of salads on the menu, and the restaurant does not have a deep fryer. Dressings, soups, muffins, scones and biscuits are made in-house. They do not serve day-old pastry; anything left at the end of the day is given to dinner customers.
The kitchen at Word of Mouth is run by Stephen Wahle, a certified executive chef with the American Culinary Federation. The two key waitstaff have been working there since the restaurant opened three years ago. The space is generous, and it feels like Florida, with floor-to-ceiling windows and an attractive outside dining area. “Regulars” account for about 60% of the restaurant’s business. Although there’s no liquor, there is a nice selection of beer and well-priced wines (Malbec is $6 per glass, for example). And there’s a counter for those who want something on which to rest their elbows. Cheers!
WORD OF MOUTH DOWNTOWN
Address: 711 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday; 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
(This is Chef Stephen Wahle’s recipe for a single serving)
Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
5 ounces flounder filet
1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dredge flounder in seasoned flour. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over high heat until foam subsides, then quickly sauté fish on both sides.
Transfer to oven to finish cooking, approximately 10 minutes, or until cooked to desired degree of doneness.
Heat half-and-half. Work remaining tablespoon of butter and an equal amount of flour into a paste and whisk it into hot liquid in small bits until sauce achieves desired thickness. Season with Old Bay, salt and pepper.
Quickly sauté spinach in remaining tablespoon of oil, drain and add to sauce.
To plate: Place flounder on a bed of yellow rice and top with sauce.