Dining Outside the Home: Rosati’s Pizza in Estero, Florida! You learn a lot about a business by talking to the owners. Perhaps that is why I sometimes visit a restaurant in the off hours of the day. You are more apt to find the owners working face-to-face with customers. Rosati’s Pizza is owned and operated by a family who not only strives for perfection, but also cares about the people who walk through their door. When they expanded their business in Estero for dine-in service, Covid hit with a vengeance and caused them to shift to delivery and carry-out service only. That takes a chunk out of overhead, which translates to selling a boatload of pizza. Yet, they endured. And thrived because they do things the old-fashioned way: like sourcing local ingredients, fresh mozzarella, and homemade crusts. Their story goes all the way back to the first pizzerias in Chicago; Italian roots to the core. So proud, they live by the motto, “We don’t cut corners, just slices of pizza.” Dine in, smell the aromas, chat with the staff, and over-order so you have extra servings for leftovers. Don’t forget to add a jar of the Hot Giardiniera. It is ah-mazing!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.
MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD
1 prepared naan flatbread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices
Crushed basil leaves
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Lentil Rotini Pizza Pasta! Going organic, especially with red lentils, doesn’t necessarily mean the meal has to be completely plant-based. Sure, you still get the protein and fiber you need, but think about making it appealing to your family as well. By adding cheese and pepperoni slices, you can turn the rotini spirals into an Italian favorite. Pizza Pasta. Spice things up with red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano. Now you’re talking. Serve in individual baking dishes for extra special treatment. You may even have the kids asking for it again.
LENTIL ROTINI PIZZA PASTA
12-ounce box of organic red lentil rotini
1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, divided
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Crushed basil for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rotini. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Caution: Watch carefully as the lentils will foam up to overflowing. You may have to reduce heat to a Simmer. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine marinara sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Add rotini; stir to coat. Fold in 3/4 of the pepperoni and half the mozzarella cheese. Divide into individual broiler-proof baking dishes. Top with remaining pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven rack to at least 4” away from broiler coils. Preheat broiler on High setting. Arrange individual casseroles on a baking sheet. Transfer sheet to oven. Cook until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Garnish with crushed basil. Serve with garlic bread.
Dining Outside the Home: Tavern on the Bay in Naples, Florida! Imagine yourself on a sunny afternoon, perched at the edge of a patio, under a swaying palm tree, sipping on a refreshing beverage with a panoramic view of Naples Bay. Ahhh. These are the moments when Time stands still. Notice the Mediterranean-style architecture, the brick-laden pathways, the gurgling fountains, and the waterfront activity. It practically feels like an oasis in the middle of paradise. Feeling hungry? The Tavern on the Bay menu has you covered. The freshest ingredients are used in an ahi poke bowl, chopped salad, prime rib slider, snapper sammie, or shrimp taco. It sure makes choosing something a tough decision. No worries. There really isn’t a wrong choice. Sit back and enjoy.
Dining Outside the Home: Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza in Estero, Florida! You’re probably wondering what the big deal is about mentioning “coal oven” in the name of this pizza joint. Basically, it boils down to the deliciousness of a charred crust enclosing a chewy center without overcooking the toppings. You get this from very high, dry heat contained within the oven walls. The coal oven is a little larger than the others, so it holds more pizzas. Makes sense, amirite? There’s nothing worse than sinking your teeth into a pizza pie loaded with extra cheese only to discover the bottom crust is a bit soggy. That’s not going to happen at Tony Sacco’s. In fact, customize your creation like I do. For cheese-lovers, request shredded mozzarella, smoky provolone, grated parmesan, and fresh mozzarella over authentic Italian marinara. The cheese pulls will practically make your mouth drool in public. Slowly wipe your chin. Then garnish a pizza slice with freshly chopped basil and dig in.
Dining Outside the Home: Naples Flatbread Kitchen & Bar in Estero, Florida! Whenever people get the choice to dine outside among potted palms and waterfall fountains, they choose it. The feeling of nature creates a calming atmosphere for casual conversation. Food seems to taste better, too. In essence, it’s almost like a mental vacation to embrace the ambiance. The food choices encompass cravings from Appeteasers to Gourmet Salads to Triple ‘B’ Burgers, Wraps, and Famous Flatbreads. But that’s not all… NFB spotlights a Tap Wall with over 50 domestic and craft beer choices available on a self-serve draft system. You’ll find beers, wines, hard seltzers, ciders, nitro cold brews, meads, and kombuchas. Seriously, if you’re a food and drink enthusiast, it’s time to check this place out. What have you got to lose?
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Buffalo Chicken Pizza! Combine two bar and grill favorites to equal one outstanding supper on game night. From the creamy ranch dressing slathered over a crispy olive oil crust to the tender rotisserie chicken dotted with robust bleu cheese and crunchy celery, you will not believe your taste buds. This is good stuff. Decide how high you want to crank up the heat by using spicy sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes. Go wingless for a sensational show-stopper that will leave everyone cheering.
BUFFALO CHICKEN PIZZA
1 prepared naan, flatbread, or pizza crust
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/3 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup deli-roasted chicken, shredded
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup chopped celery
2-3 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400°. Brush both sides of a prepared pizza crust. Sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom only. Sprinkle garlic powder over top. Bake seasoned crust on a pizza stone for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from oven. Spread ranch salad dressing evenly over top crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Layer on shredded chicken. Dot with bleu cheese crumbles. Bake 10 minutes longer. Arrange chopped celery over pizza. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
Dining Outside the Home: Sand Bar on Marco Island, Florida! Talk to any local about an island favorite off the beaten path, and you’re sure to hear about the Sand Bar. The drinks are cold, the bar bites are amazing, the music is lively, and the cheers come in waves. With walls of big screen televisions, there’s bound to be something interesting to pique the conversation, should the need arise. From startups to salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, or platters, the favorites keep coming. Happy Hour often means standing room only, but that’s part of the allure for stopping by. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner offer specials that are worth checking out, too. Being open every day all year long kinda proves this local joint is spot on. Better check it out.
Dining Outside the Home: Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House on Marco Island, Florida! My husband always says, “It’s more fun to eat at a bar than drink in a restaurant.” At Joey’s you can do both… or choose to eat and drink outdoors in their welcoming patio area. No matter where you settle in, the mood is contagious. Everyone seems to be having a good time. The drinks are cold and thirst-quenching, the food is definitely spot on. That’s probably due to the fact that Italian pasta dinners, specialty pizzas, and sweet desserts are made from family recipes. Pace yourself by sharing appetizers. Pizza is the main attraction offered in the New York style of thin-crust, which can be folded in half to eat, or the popular Sicilian thick-crust version covered in olive oil. Either way, go overboard. Leftovers can be taken home and eaten later when the cravings return.