It's the morning after our first visit to this restaurant, and my wife and I both woke up thinking about what a great experience last night was. We originally found this place on Tripadvisor while looking for a restaurant close to relatives in Apollo Beach we were planning on visiting (we live in Sarasota), and jotted down the info. After a day of shopping, we found ourselves in Brandon, and fortunately, my wife had had the foresight to bring the restaurant info with her.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were surprised at how nice the decor and atmosphere was, especially for a strip-center location. The attention to detail is obvious, right down to the table settings and flatware. Obviously, no expense was spared, but all of this is secondary if you are looking first for great food.
And great it was. We shared a large Caesar salad, amply portioned for two people, and the dressing was delicious. The Italian bread was perfectly baked, dense on the inside and crusty on the outside, unlike some of the tasteless, white fluff that some places pass off as Italian bread. An herbed balsamic olive oil accompanied the bread for dipping.
By this point, we were anticipating that the rest of our meal would be just as good, and we were not let down. My Signature Dish of grilled chicken, pancetta, sauteed mushroom, sundried tomatoes and spinach in a wonderful Alfredo sauce was love at first bite. My wife ordered the Romantica, an eggplant dish with mushrooms, Italian sausage, marinara, ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Her "Mmmmmmmm" of approval was almost perfectly timed with mine. Portion sizes were generous, and I'm not just talking about the pasta; you almost have to include a piece of chicken or sausage in every bite. The presentation was impressive as well, with decorative garnish that you only find in more upscale restaurants.
When my wife asked a question about the cannoli, our waiter paused, turned, and headed back to the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later with a large cannoli, which was given to us "on the house" for our first visit. It was so good, we would have been happy to pay for it had they included it on our bill. The filling was delicious and not overly sweet, and the shell was crispy and fresh. All in all, the perfect cannoli.
I cannot speak to previous comments regarding service, as we found every aspect of their service to be excellent. Staff members were friendly and helpful, and at no point during our visit did we have to ask for anything, which is rare these days. Our glasses were constantly refilled, we were offered more bread, our dishes were cleared quickly and our meals were delivered in a very reasonable amount of time.
We've visited several restaurants in the Brandon-Riverview area before, but only when we were already in the area doing other things. Italian Kitchen has turned the tables on that concept; it will now become the reason for our drive from Sarasota. It's that good. We'll be back.