Whether you're a first-time restaurant owner or an industry veteran, opening a new restaurant is always fraught with challenges.
When chef Andrea Bozzolo and business partner Howard Rooks announced their intentions to open Amore by Andrea in the former Mattison’s Steakhouse location, my interest was piqued. Not only was this a new venture for both experienced men, but the space is also very large and had been unoccupied for quite some time. What could we expect?
Elegance and Style
Upon our arrival, the restaurant’s presence was immediately attractive. The stand-alone building is nestled among some large trees and overlooks a rustic setting, and you almost forget you're a few steps away from the Publix Plaza on Longboat Key. Rather, the setting projects an independent, almost country-like feel.
The scale and elegance of the restaurant’s space is immediately striking. Amore oozes an elegance and high–end ambiance with its soaring ceilings, well-appointed dining rooms, a cozy cocktail area with a fireplace, piano, bar and an outdoor “al fresco” dining area.
Amore has cleverly broken down a physically large space into smaller, more intimate dining areas, which is important in making the dining experience personable.
The menu at Amore is quite large, offering a full range of appetizers, soups, salads, pastas and entrées. No one will be disappointed by the choices. For our meals, we chose the following:
- Beets, Feta and Goat Cheese Tower: $9 A slight misnomer; not really a tower presentation, although it was very nice looking across a rectangular plate. Sweet, creamy and tangy. Delicious!
- Beef Carpaccio, Andrea’s Style: $10 Very thinly sliced air-dried beef topped with fresh arugula and shavings of parmesan cheese. Rich and full of deep flavor; a wonderful presentation of a classic dish.
- Antipasti: $19 A visually pleasing, overflowing plate filled with meats, mushrooms, cheese and marinated vegetables. Very tasty. The perfect way to start a meal by sharing with friends.
- Ravioli of the Day: Red spinach and ricotta cheese. Sage reduction. $20 Rich, silky and flavorful. The sage flavor is pronounced.
- Ravioli of the Day: Wild mushroom with sage and butter sauce. $20 Absolutely delicious! The mushroom is subtle, earthy and rich, and the ravioli and sauce are silky, light and pillowy. Another classic dish.
- Rigatoni Carbonara: Creamy egg yolk, pancetta and parmesan sauce. $18 Cooked al dente. It was creamy, crispy from the pancetta and velvety rich. Absolutely delicious! I always find Andrea’s pasta dishes to be superb.
- Chicken Amore: Baked with a tomato, capers, olives, oregano and white wine sauce and topped with mozzarella. $18 A twist on chicken parm. The chicken was moist. The capers added some depth to this dish.
- Veal Saltimbocca: Veal scaloppine topped with prosciutto and sage in a white wine sauce. $24 Thinly pounded with a subtle hint of sage. Savory and salty. One of the better presentations of this Italian classic.
- Fish of the Day: Yellowfin tuna grilled to temperature. $32 A very simple presentation of tender, fresh fish.
- Cioppino: Shrimp, mussels, clams, cilantro, swordfish and salmon over linguine. $32 A wonderful presentation of shellfish and fish. Ample portions. Rich and full of flavor; perfect for a cool evening’s meal.
- Vegetable Side: $5 Mix of fresh vegetables that was colorful and lightly sautéed.
- Cannoli: Perfect blend of ricotta cheese and cream rolled into fried delicious shells. $6.50 It really is the perfect blend of sweet and creamy.
- Tartufo: $8 Cappuccino ice cream surround by frozen dark chocolate. Rich and heavenly.
- Chocolate Layer Cake: $8 Dense, rich chocolate.
- Tiramisu: Smooth layers of mascarpone cheese filling and coffee-infused lady fingers. $7 Light and flavorful; one if the best in Sarasota.
- Panna Cotta: This is an old silky smooth secret recipe of cooked cream. $6 One of my favorites: light, not too sweet and subtly flavored. Always a great end to a meal.
- Sunday Brunch: Complimentary mimosa or Prosecco included. $29 per person An abundant selection of both breakfast foods (individually prepared omelets, carving station, etc.) and lunch/dinner items (salads, antipasto, seafood paella, chicken masala and veal) and a nice selection of desserts (tiramisu, mousse, fresh fruit and brownies). All very well prepared and nicely presented on an elegant buffet table. Many items change weekly.
Amore offers full bar service for pre-dinner cocktails and happy hour. Our servers were always friendly, attentive, informative and efficient. Some friends and associates have experienced intermittent service issues., but that was never our experience. Perhaps these inconsistent experiences are part of the growing pains and challenges of scaling such a large restaurant, or the raised expectations of a high-end setting. Whatever the case, we feel the issues are short lived and not an inherent flaw in the restaurant.
Amore by Andrea is an ambitious undertaking that has its share of challenges and moments of inconsistency. But the owners are experienced restaurateurs, and given time, they'll make the dining experience a great one. We're confident, and Sarasota diners will reap the benefits.
555 Bay Isles Parkway, Longboat Key | 383-1111
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
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