Restaurant comings and goings on the Suncoast

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A fond good bye to Chutneys.

One of Sarasota’s most successful restaurants is retiring this week.

Chutney’s has been an institution for the past 30 years. A small lunch and dinner spot featuring deliciously addictive Indian and Middle Eastern fare, from Mango iced tea to my favorite combo plate of chicken kabobs, hummus and garlic noodles, will soon close.

Well done Ash and Denise. You set the bar in Sarasota before flavorful ethnic cuisine was popular on what was a small street next to Sarasota Memorial Hospital.  Thank you for the flavors and memories and enjoy the journey of your retirement.

Square 1 Burger didn’t make it at a new location on Tamiami Trail. Second try was not the charm but one remains on University.

Congratulations to Ophelia’s on The Bay

National award for their stunning waterfront dining on little Sarasota Bay. The test of time as they enter almost 30 years as well and continue to bring fine dining, romantic views and fine service to South Siesta key.

While Sarasota is booming again with a surge of Italian restaurants, five new or almost ready to open places hit the town serving spaghetti and meatball fare, including creamy polenta with porcini mushrooms.

A quiet little northern Italian Taverna opened six months ago on Hillview that is worthy of a visit. Taverna Grill replaced Hillview Grill and is a quiet yet unexpected pleasure. The menu might seem just a little confusing with a broken English description but trust me, the porcini mushrooms crepe, Pappardelle with fresh tomato sauce, basil and Pecorino cheese is to live for and the mushroom ragu gnocchi a dream. Décor is a bit too sparse but definitely worth a tasty visit.

Giorgio’s has also opened where several (most recently Mercado) have failed. Give them a little time since they just recently opened and have already adjusted the noise level. The focaccia is homemade and a dream and the shout out to Pepe’s pizza in New Haven, Ct. was worthy of a bow. No doubt under the leadership of restaurateur Michael Gary, things will be full sail for season.

Il Conte, focusing on Southern Italian, opened in Lakewood Ranch and is already having rave reviews. Always trust your hair stylist, and Chelsea Linde was spot on here. Fresh homemade pizzas, Brasciola; rolled rib eye with parmigiana, garlic and raisins, barolo sauce; and Spigola

whole branzino , broccoli rabe, crazy water sauce. Serving both lunch and dinner, word of mouth has hit hard and this new little gem is destined to be a Lakewood Ranch favorite.

Carmel Kitchen has a new menu and I must say - two thumbs up! The new menu reflects bolder flavors and stand-out dishes like Paella, Heirloom Caprese salad, Croque Monsieur french-style baked ham and cheese with dijon béchamel, topped with melted gruyere and fontina cheeses, Polenta & White Bean Ragout grilled polenta atop a bed of cannelloni bean ragout, served with a medley of sautéed spinach and roasted vegetables. Fear not, one of the best burgers and steak Frites is still on the menu.

Metro Diner opened about 2 months ago and stands to be THE place for breakfast, lunch and hearty dinners. (See review on mysuncoast.com/dining) all I have to say is fried chicken and waffles.

Bravo Coastal Kitchen just opened in the ever changing Westfield Southgate. The sharing plates are a good selection of tender fried calamari steaks, avocado toasts (a special) and a wonderful beet and whipped feta salad. The whole branzino was our top pick for main dishes. The menu is a little pedestrian with items like potato skins on the happy hour menu and yet another version of the decades old chocolate lava cake, but the dessert special of warm freshly baked lemon cake with berry compote is the direction I hope they take. Now don’t get me wrong, I would certainly go back as the room is inviting and almost everything we tried was very good.

Culinary Director

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at www.mysuncoast.com