LAKEWOOD RANCH — Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, Italian chef and business owner Pino Luongo dashes around his new East County restaurant, wiping off counters and setting chairs into place.
When he’s not creating gourmet Italian dishes at his high-end restaurant, Pino’s 100 Central in downtown Sarasota, Luongo is here at the former site of La Tosca, where he is preparing to open his newest venture, Pino’s Pizza Pasta & Wine Bar.
“This one is going to be more casual,” Luongo said. “I want to make it casual and affordable in price for all the families.”
Pino’s 100 Central is known for its high-end, authentic Italian cuisine, and Luongo’s new East County eatery will offer the same quality dishes at lower prices and in a more family friendly atmosphere than its sister restaurant, which will remain open.
Although Luongo is still working on the restaurant’s menu, he said it will offer his home-made pastas such as manicotti, ravioli and gnocchi sorrentina as well as other entrées, including wood-fired pizzas. Pino’s signature dishes, such as ossobuco, sciue sciue and veal shank, will be available to customers as nightly specials but will not have a permanent home on the menu.
“Pino’s is bringing affordable Italian to the Lakewood Ranch area,” Luongo’s wife, Kim, said. “There’s a need for the pasta and the pizza out here, especially on State Road 64. We’ll still have the ossobuco and fresh seafood for those who want it.”
The couple plans to make dining at Pino’s more convenient by offering online ordering for customers who want to take out food or dine in. They also plan to offer delivery to homes within Lakewood Ranch. The restaurant will open for both lunch and dinner, at least to start.
The Luongos also hope to have live entertainment, possibly jazz or Latin nights, to create a more unique atmosphere for their customers, Kim Luongo said.
In addition to its bar area and normal dining area, the restaurant also will have a private dining area that can accommodate about 12 guests.
A target opening date has been set for Sept. 15.
Pino Luongo, a native of Ischia, Italy, started his culinary career working as the second chef at a five-star hotel in Italy. He has been offering his signature Italian dishes to Sarasota residents since opening Gastronomia as its owner and chef in July 1995. He opened Pino’s Primi Piatti in 2000 and closed it in January 2006 because a new condominium was to be built on its site. The Luongos moved their restaurant and reopened as Pino’s 100 Central in February 2006.
Their newest eatery will be located at 1837 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
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