Edible Sarasota: ‘Life of Pie’

Sometimes I write for Edible Sarasota, a downright glorious publication (if I do say so myself) that focuses on our local gastronomic community.  Chefs and recipes are featured, for sure, but they also highlight unique stories like the power of edible flowers and one-of-a-kind chalkboard menus.


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Last issue I was burdened with the oh-so-horrible task of eating all of the delicious pizza in Sarasota and her neighboring towns. What a chore!

Each pizza joint had something different to offer.  Thus, if you’re moody like I am, there’s a pie to suit your every whim.  Super cheesy, authentic Neapolitan, pizza by the yard, grilled, baked, or covered in truffle – there’s a plethora of pies ready to make your acquaintance.

Here’s my take on some of our best pizza makers:



In a world where most of us have been told “You can’t please everybody,” pizza proves that sentiment is, in fact, a bald-faced lie. Whether thin crust, New York style, white, red, small or by the yard, local pizzas made with passion aim to please and they never miss. Not even once.

Goodfellas Cafe & Winery
You may be a Floridian now, but chances are you hail from the North. In which case you will feel right at home at Goodfella’s, where Bostonian Frank Vespa has captured the quintessential essence of a New England Italian market (think fresh pastas made daily, homemade roasted coffees and their own winery) in a Cheers style restaurant setting, where they will, no doubt, remember your name and be glad you came. Pizzas come either large or small with their signature super-charred thin crust from the wood fire oven in the kitchen. The dough is fermented, not leavened, and made with double zero flour. Although you’ll be tempted to order their famous mussels, don’t miss the opportunity to scarf down the California Dream – a crispy and holy-moly-delicious white pizza covered with fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes and artichokes hearts.

4571 Clark Rd Sarasota, FL 34233; (941) 538-6535; goodfellassarasota.com


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Leone’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

Leone’s has been keeping pizza eaters happy for nearly twenty years. With live entertainment several nights a week, a large dining room and a menu brimming over with zuppe, insalate and antipasti, this traditional Italian restaurant is the perfect place for families to gather and make memories. Opt for the Margherita Pizza, named, of course, after famed Queen Margherita visited Naples, Italy in 1889, where pizza maker Raffaele Esposito created the now infamous tomato, basil, mozzarella combination to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Thick and cheesy with a delightfully crunchy crust, the real standout are the local tomatoes that taste as though they were picked ten minutes before they adorned your pizza. Pizzas are made to order, so you can adjust the crust to your liking, but why mess with the masters who, with two decades of experience, have hit the nail right on the pizza.

1266 Jacaranda Blvd Venice, FL 34292; (941) 496-9148; www.leonesvenice.com

Francesco’s NY Style Ristorante & Pizzeria

Eh, goombah, you want a slice of real New York style pizza? Alright, wise guy, you got it. Francesco himself promises ‘A slice of New York right here in Sarasota,’ and he’s not joking. This homemade, hand-tossed dough is made, and topped, with the most expensive products in the pizza industry as Francesco spares no expense in recreating the pizzas he remembers from his New York youth. Cheese lovers, the Quattro Formaggio will blow you away with a melty mouthful of mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiano and gorgonzola – wait, what? Gorgonzola? Yes! Gorgonzola! Subtle, yet significant, this surprise element adds a delightful depth and zing to an otherwise traditional slice of pie. Topped with a garlic oil sauce, this pizza is one you will return for time and again. Francesco’s delivers every single item on their menu, so give your family the heads up on what they’ll be eating for the next four months.

3664 Webber St Sarasota, FL 34232; (941) 929-7600; www.francescospizzasarasota.com

Flavio’s Brick Oven and Bar

Flavio, who has been at the helm of Siesta Key’s beloved Bella Roma for over twenty years, expanded the restaurant so he could add a full bar and a brick oven to further wow patrons with his authentic Italian cuisine. Although this eatery is small and elegant, it’s the perfect place for beachgoers to mosey in, belly up to the eclectic bar and order a pizza per person. Yes, per person, as the lovely waiter Arturo, who hails from Venice, Italy explains “In Italy, pizza is your dinner. You eat it hot and you don’t share.” It has nothing to do with greed. When the pizza is this tasty, you’ll want one of your own. Order the neapolitan style Pizza Quattro Stagioni with mushrooms, mozzarella, artichokes, ham and olives. The toppings are light with a hint of saltiness, the pizza is perfectly thin and chewy and the marinara sauce will make your mouth water for days on end.

5239 Ocean Blvd Sarasota FL 34242; 941.349.0995; www.bellaromaitalianrestaurant.com/flaviosbrickovenbar.html

The Broadway Bar

The very first pizza place, and oldest bar, in Sarasota, The Broadway Bar has been serving locals and visitors, including famed guests like The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers and Rita Moreno, for 86 years. With dough that takes two to three days to ‘proof,’ fresh herbs from the garden and true Italian recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, it’s easy to see why. “Big Tony” and his wife, Mimi, bought Broadway in ‘63 and handed over the local institution to their niece, the unbelievably lovely Carolyn Heath, in 1990, allowing Broadway to keep its beloved family recipes in tact. Get their traditional, super thin crust pizza with caramelized onions and bright, flavorful basil picked that day. Ordering for one? Their small is the perfect size to please, although so tasty you may end up ordering two.

1001 Cocoanut Ave Sarasota, FL 34236; (941) 953-4343; www.broadwaybar.com


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Solorzano Bros Old-Fashioned Pizza

These New Jersey boys are giving New York pizza a run for its money. With signature pies like ‘Garden State,’ ‘Bada Bing’ and ‘Hoboken Heart Attack’ these brothers aren’t afraid of a little whimsy, but when it comes to their pizzas, they aren’t kidding around. Solorzanos’ parents and grandparents were pizza makers, too, with family ties leading back to Naples, meaning pizza is in their blood. Made with local produce and the finest ingredients, these hand stretched, hand tossed pizzas are fanfreakingtastic. This is one of the few joints that you can get pizza by the slice. If available DO NOT MISS the eggplant parmigiana pizza with perfectly breaded pieces of eggplant and ooey, gooey gobs of ricotta. Sprint to the walk-up window and place your order. If the weather permits, sit outside on their signature red and white benches and thank the stars for slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, buttery pizza crusts.

3604 Webber Street Sarasota, Fl 34232; (941) 926-4276; www.solorzanobros.com

Valentino Pizzeria Trattoria

By the slice or by the pie, Valentino’s offers homemade pizzas with flavors from every region of Italy. Whether it’s dine-in, take-out, delivery or catering, Valentino Pizzeria has one goal: ‘Prepare simple, no fuss, made from scratch dishes in a way our grandparents and ancestors would be proud.’ So, in case you were wondering if they were passionate about what they do, now you know. Tiny booths allow for intimate meals, while spacious seating allows for family-style eating. Although the Josephine Grandma’s Pan Pie and Bruschetta Pizza (pronounced brus’ketta by the way – for those of you turning the ‘sch’ into a ‘shh’) sounded delightful, the time-honored, classic slice of mushroom will satisfy any pizza lover. A super crunchy crust and the kind of melty cheese that stretches a mile from your mouth, this traditional pizza is downright gratifying.

4045 Clark Rd Sarasota, FL 34233; (941) 921-9600; www.valentinopizzeria.com


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Il Panificio

Although they offer salads, subs and sandwiches, Il Panificio has become synonymous with pizza in Sarasota. In fact, it’s a requirement if you want to be a resident here. The Main Street location is always buzzing with diners wolfing down a slice or two. This is the kind of pizza you’ve been accustomed to your whole life – big, triangular, hand-tossed, thin crust slices with the perfect amount of pizza grease that leaves your mouth looking like you just applied a fresh coat of lip gloss. Their brick pizza oven is coated with twenty years worth of seasoning, and without any preservatives or artificial flavoring, it doesn’t really matter which topping you get as you’ll be pleased any ol’ way they slice it. But, we suggest going old school – order a slice of sausage and a draft beer and call it a day.

1703 Main St Sarasota 34236; (941) 366-5570; www.panificiousa.com

Made in Italy

Made in Italy? They aren’t lying. From the ingredients to the Da Gigino ‘pizza al metro’ concept to the wood fire oven to Chef Giuseppe Del Sole himself (known as ‘Pepe’ to his legion of loyal followers) almost everything under the gorgeous Made in Italy roof has been imported from Naples, Italy. The concept of serving pizza al metro, or by the yard, allows a group of friends to order a yard of pizza with each ¼ yard being a different type of pizza. So, if you order pizza Fresca and your friend orders pizza Romana you would get a half yard of two different pizzas. Get it? But, get neither. Opt for the Tartufella with tomato sauce, mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, sausage, truffle oil and shaved parmesan, garnished with big, bold leaves of basil. There’s a good chance this is the best pizza in the country, both Italy and America.

117 West Venice Avenue, Venice Florida 34285; (941) 488-8282; www.madeinitaly-venice.com






  • http://www.facebook.com/the.coolest.court Courtney Adams

    Il Panificio!

    Yum Yum! I looooove them!

    • semisweetmegan

      :) have you tried made in italy??? come see us at the shop, lady! it’s been too long.