Waterside Place is on the verge of another restaurant opening.
After signing a lease agreement nearly two years ago, Osteria 500 is preparing to open its doors. The Italian restaurant plans to be fully open the second week of July after a soft opening.
One of the restaurant's main features is a pizza oven, which is a mosaic-tiled dome oven that sits atop a red Fiat 500. It was shipped to Lakewood Ranch from Naples, Italy. The Fiat also serves as the restaurant’s logo.
An osteria in Italy is a wine bar that serves simple food. The menu takes that lead with a less is more approach, allowing a few ingredients to speak for themselves.
The seafood is delivered daily. Steaks are cooked on a Brazilian charcoal grill. The pizza and pasta are made fresh using Italian flour that has no chemicals and a lower gluten content.
All three owners and the chef hail from Italy.
Co-owner Andrea De Dominicis moved to Florida 12 years ago from Abruzzo, east of Rome, on a work visa through Cafe Epicure. Ten years later, he sold his house to build Osteria 500 with his co-owners — brother-in-law Giuseppe Del Sole and longtime friend Carmine Ussano.
Friends become family, too, so De Dominicis calls his newest restaurant a family business. The chef, Salvatore Scaccino, is Del Sole’s nephew.
Del Sole has co-owned Napule on South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota since 2017 with Alessandro Di Ferdinando. The pair owned Made in Italy in Venice before opening Napule.
Del Sole will be back and forth between Osteria 500 and Napule, while De Dominicis and Ussano oversee the bar and dining room Scaccino mans the kitchen.
“The four of us, we can take the pressure,” De Dominicis said of his bold investment move to sell his home.
Now, De Dominicis lives and works at Waterside. Walking to the restaurant from his Botanic apartment has given him a chance to get to know his neighbors and their thoughts on the restaurant’s progress.
“Nine months ago, they were nice about it. Now, they’re grabbing me by the shirt saying, ‘You said you’d be open last month,’” De Dominicis joked.
Construction and shipping delays aside, he said it has taken time to design and build the restaurant from scratch. While the restaurant is in a large, industrial space with exposed ceilings, the owners took care to weave their Italian culture into the nooks and crannies.
The loft area upstairs is a nod to Sorrento and the town’s love for lemons. Bright yellow lemons dot the greenery hanging overhead. Downstairs, behind the bar, is a private dining room, where garlic and peppers are draped in with the lighting.
The restaurant can hold up to 160 diners between the indoor and outdoor seating. The outside patio features a fire pit on one side and a unique bar area on the other.
“We didn’t want to build just a regular bar,” De Dominicis said. “This feels like you're on a street in Italy.”
This bar is hard to miss when walking down Lakefront Drive. It’s a baby blue Citroen truck. The windows pop open just like a food truck, but they reveal a full bar instead of a stovetop. The truck is another European import. While popular in Europe, the vehicles haven’t been sold in the United States since the late 1980s.
The cocktail bar is the centerpiece of the outdoor lounge area. If looking for something light, there’s a separate menu offering smaller, shareable dishes.
“If you go to a burger place, you can have a burger every day,” De Dominicis said, “But if you eat Italian, you can have something new every day.”
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.