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“This is what happens when your ego takes over.” 1 of 5 stars
Review of Puccini's Cucino Amore

Puccini's Cucino Amore
2881 Clark Road, Merchant's Point Plaza, Sarasota, FL 34231
+1 941-923-7002
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Ranked #210 of 851 Restaurants in Sarasota
Price range: $40 - $50
Cuisines: Italian
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Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations, Late Night
Description: Puccini's is an intimate and magical dining experience. Request a chef table and sit and watch Chef Richard perform and prepare your meal right in his kitchen. Puccini's is a BYOB restaurant with no corkage fee. Cash or check only please. Reservations only.
Sarasota, Florida
2 reviews
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“This is what happens when your ego takes over.”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2013

When you pull into Puccini’s and park, you know why you have never been there. The nondescript store front is easy to miss. But I like that, it made me feel this place is special, like you are being let in on great secret. Once inside two of your senses are immediately assaulted. First, your smell, the garlic, the onions, the fresh herbs…wow, then your sight, our reservation was for 730, it was still bright outside, so when we walked in the door, we were blinded with sudden darkness, but once our eyes adjusted we saw a spacious front room, and a romantic wall of candles. So good so far. We were the first of our party of 6 to arrive, therefore when we were escorted to our table, past the open table/kitchen I took advantage of being early and seated myself so I could see the chef cook. I would like to interject here that I am a chef as well, I have an expensive culinary education, that I am still paying for.
We decide that we wanted to open our bottle of wine then, to let it breath, as the rest of our party arrives, with more bottles of wine. Puccini’s is BYOB, and they don’t charge a fee, and I like this, it’s like his website says “We want YOU to worry about the wine and let us concentrate on the food!” No problem there.
A young woman presents us with menus, tells us of the additions for the evening, and fills our water glasses. Meanwhile, the chef is in his kitchen, which is in the middle of the restaurant, slicing mushrooms, and pounding veal to order. At this point I thought I was in heaven. The menu may have been limited, but there was something for everyone, meat, chicken, and seafood.
Then the young woman came back to take our order…this is where the problems began. One of our friends wasn’t terribly hungry and asked if she could have the mussels appetizer as her entrée, and the young woman told her that because they don’t serve wine or liquor, that the chef prefers that you at least order an entrée. But the problem would be solved if you ordered two appetizers. This makes no sense to me, but we went with it, because we still had high hopes at this time. When another one of our friends, expressed her concerns about ordering her steak to the young woman, we were assured that the chef would cook the steak to her desired temperature, we were satisfied with her assurances and carried on.
I ordered the mussels in red sauce for my starter, but when the server/manager(?) put it in front of me it was mussels in white sauce, I told him what I ordered, and he returned the mussels to the chef, who then looked sternly at the mussels, and then to the ticket, realized his mistake, returned the original mussels to a hot pan, ladled on some red sauce, flipped them around a bit, put them back in the original bowl and sent them back to our table. This doesn’t really offend me because, I know the difference between white sauce and red sauce for mussels, and it’s just white wine, so I am willing to over look this. They were delicious.
When out main courses arrived, we oooo’d and ahhh’d at the presentation, and the aroma’s, and we waited only a short time for one entrée, and that was our friends steak. Yes she ordered it medium well, and yes we understand that that takes longer. When she cut into it…it was rare, perfect for me, but not for her. We called over the young woman, she picked up the plate took it back to the chef…who rolled his eyes in our general direction, and mumbled “amateurs” to the young woman, and thru the steak back on the grill. The chef was at this point visibly agitated with us, and continued to bang pots around, and berate the servers. This is when I lost my appetite. I felt like I was personally attacked by the chef. I believe, even though I like my steak cooked medium rare, that if a customer orders a steak well done, the steak should be cooked well done. This is not a matter of a something being over cooked. This is a matter of a chef with an ego so big, that he is going to serve you his food his way, regardless of the customers wants, blatantly, and unapologetically. I felt like this one chef is making the rest of us look bad. The way I see it is HE IS THE AMETEUR, I mean seriously, how can you not know how to cook a steak to order?
After we paid our bill, and were heading out the door, one of our friends pulled the server/manager over and told him what we experienced, that we are not “amateurs”, that we will never return, and that we will tell all of our friends not to bother coming here.

  • Visited June 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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118 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
7 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Used to be great!!”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed May 26, 2013

Coming to Sarasota for over 25 years, we discovered Pucinni’s several years ago when it was at the old location. The food was fantastic and Rich DeFelice, the chef/owner was a gracious host. We returned many times to both the old and current location with family and friends and recommended it to anyone that traveled to the area. On our most recent visit, everything changed. We were seated in the “new” expanded area of the restaurant that resembled something out of the Adams Family-dark paneling on the walls with ornate wall hangings and light fixtures. We asked if we could sit in the other area closer to the “open” kitchen but were told “those tables book months in advance!” The food, unlike our other visits, was far from memorable. The duck tasted like chicken and the risotto that was served as an accompaniment to the meals was so overcooked that I had to ask our server what it was. The only bright spots were the bruschetta and the home-made ravioli that were excellent.
In lieu of our past experiences, normally I would give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a bad night. I do not think this was the case. As we walked out, I noticed that there was an empty table (in the other room) that no one had been seated at for the entire evening. Pucinni’s no longer accepts credit cards and it seems that Chef DeFelice has “bitten off more that he can handle” with his expansion. Too bad, it WAS a great restaurant.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sarasota, Florida
Top Contributor
284 reviews 284 reviews
177 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 101 cities Reviews in 101 cities
157 helpful votes 157 helpful votes
“Watch the chef work his magic!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 25, 2013

From the outside Puccini's is totally unimpressive. Once you step through the doorway however, it's warm and inviting with lots of candles everywhere---even up one entire wall. We went there with friends and made reservations to sit in the kitchen area so we could watch the "show". The chef has a small working area where he has all of the raw materials like vegetables, spices etc laid out on a table. Then he turns those raw materials into the most wonderful gustatory delights right before your eyes! It's something to watch as he prepares food for everyone in the restaurant without missing a beat. Incredible. We ordered two appetizers, i.e. the mussels in white sauce and the braised scallops. Entrees were branzino (a flaky white fish), salmon and flounder with shrimp. The meal was preceded by each of us getting a "amuse bouche" --a small plate of crostini topped with mozzarella, accompanied with white beans and sliced smoke meat. Everything was incredibly delicious and cooked to perfection--starting with the amuse bouche. The mussels were plump and tender, the scallops huge and bathed in a delicious sauce. All three of fish entrees came with roasted summer squash and risotto and were elegantly presented and superb. What was so amazing was that the chef turned out dish after dish of incredible food. The waitstaff were a bit aloof but that didn't spoil the meal. If you go, sit in the kitchen area and watch the chef work his magic.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sarasota, Florida
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“A TREAT”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 14, 2013

The review below is not of the food but a incorrect contact number. Wewere there a few days later and Richard (chef/owner) was upset. All I can say is GO...the door will be open. Make
a reservation, bring your own wine (no corkage) and enjoy a great meal. One chef
cooking each dish special from a varied menu. After 7months of 7 days a week I guess
he is entitled to a day off. Be sure to leave a correct phone number.

Steve

  • Visited May 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
3 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Left Wondering”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed May 8, 2013

We had heard good things about Puccini's so made reservations to celebrate a birthday. The place is small with no hostess station and there was no one at the door. We were greeted pretty quickly as we wandered through the front dining room and seated in that front room. We were not offered a choice of seating although there were plenty of available tables. Unlucky us, we got a table for 2 right in the path of the door so that each time it opened my husband was blinded by the sun.
Our friendly waitress, who had seated us, brought water and reviewed the evening specials straight away. Prices of the specials were not disclosed until I inquired. She supplied a wine opener for the bottle we had brought with us and then left us. Our "bread" did not arrive until after she had returned and gotten our order. Had I know that the "bread" is more of an appetizer I would have skipped ordering an appetizer.
My husband ordered the ribeye and then the waitress remembered to tell us that they were out of the ribeye because the 6 they had for the evening had already been taken by earlier diners. Our dinner reservation was at 7 PM. With no other beef on the menu, he selected the evening's veal special.
The "pillows from heaven" potato pasta and the artichoke appetizers were enjoyable. The salad was over-dressed. The veal special was tough. I suspect it was not veal. My fish entree was okay, nothing noteworthy. We opted to skip dessert as none of the offerings inspired us, and we asked for the check.
The waitress brought us the wrong check. We requested the check for our dinner, put cash down (no credit cards accepted) and fled.
Overall a poor experience - wait staff needs to hon skills, bread needs to arrive with drinks, menu items not available need to be stated before sharing the specials, and patron comfort should be in the forefront.

  • Visited May 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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