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The art of Italian food comes to Lakewood Ranch

New restaurant in Lakewood Ranch prides itself on cooking with care.

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  • | 4:58 p.m. June 7, 2017
  • East County
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Simone Dimarco, a pizza chef at the new IL Conte Ristorante & Pizzeria in Lakewood Ranch, says his job is kind of like raising children.

“You have to take care of it, you have to keep an eye on it at all times, and you have to give it time

to rise,” Dimarco said.

IL Conte Ristorante & Pizzeria’s two types of pizzas, Napoletana and Romana, are prepared in an oven that was shipped from Italy. The Napoletana has higher edges along the crust. The Romana is more of a thin-crust pizza.

“I like the Napoletana better because it is faster to make and more beautiful,” Dimarco said.

“When you see [a Napoletana pizza] it is like a piece of art,” said the restaurant’s owner, Alfredo Dapi. “It has little edges like mountains, and it’s not just a simple, flat pizza.”

After he purchased their space at 8209 Natures Way in November 2015, Dapi and his wife, Maleda Maranda, opened their doors June 3. Maranda is the restaurant’s general manager.

“Maleda and I drove around and saw how nice the area was with all of the golf courses and stuff,” Dapi said. “We thought we would love to move here.”

Dapi, who was born and raised in southeastern Italy, owned two restaurants in Italy before moving to New Jersey and starting another restaurant. His favorite is seafood dishes.

“When I was working in Italy, I was mostly always working in seafood places,” Dapi said. “I grew up around seafood, and I used to fish all the time before I got too busy.”

At 14, he was helping his uncle, Michele Coletta, who owned a restaurant in Apulia, Italy.

“I used to go help him after school and on the weekends in the restaurant,” Dapi said. “I remember the boats used to come every morning -— the sea was right at the back of the restaurant — and me and my uncle used to unload all of the fish every day.”

Now, Dapi is the restaurant owner and a chef.

“I just love to eat,” Maranda said. “I am not good at cooking, but I love [Dapi’s] food.”


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