Sandra Rossi serves a plate of Maestro’s Linguine Tuttomare.
By Liza Morrow
sun staff contributor
Maestro: master usually in an art; an eminent composer, conductor or teacher of music.
A restaurant named Maestro promises to offer more than the ubiquitous tomato sauce that is the mainstay of so many Italian restaurants, and Maestro in Bradenton Beach does not disappoint. It is a lot like eating at the neighbor's house down the street. That is if your neighbor is Italian, loves to cook and makes everything homemade.
"I came to Anna Maria because I was tired of Italy and wanted a change. The idea was a hotel and maybe a restaurant because I love to cook. Eventually, the hotel idea left and the cooking idea stayed." explained Sicilian born Alfonso Rossi, who is chef and owner along with his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Francesca.
Sandra continued "This is a family business. I do all the prep and Franceska cooks with her father until she starts medical school."
The food is simple, traditional, hearty and definitely not gourmet — the sort of Italian food that makes you happy that nuevo cuisine never happened in Anna Maria.
"Alfonso’s favorite pasta as a small boy was the linguine tuttomare that his grandfather made in Sicily. His grandfather was a great chef and inspired Alfonso to cook," Sandra explained.
She walked me past the tables in the front dining room. The tables are well spaced, the lighting is soft but not dim and suggests coziness rather than cramped quarters. She stopped in front of a series of framed black and white photographs of Alfonso as a little boy with his grandfather and then handed me a menu.
"You see? Grandfather’s picture is even on our menu," she pointed out.
Maestro offers four dining areas and each is comfortable. Choose between the wood and upholstered booths, individual tables set with red and-white-checkered tablecloths or the front room that opens to a view of the kitchen and its bustling activity. An outside café makes for good people-watching.
Maestro has no pretensions. Nor do the friendly and good-natured waitresses, who do their job with efficiency, speed and a sense of humor. The atmosphere is casual.
The menu is fairly casual, too, with 14 pasta variations, three veal, seven seafood and several chicken and beef dishes. There is something to make everyone happy. Among the starters, we found every salad we sampled was delicious. Most pleasing was a cool gorgonzola cheese and apple creation on mixed greens with citrus vinaigrette and bits of walnuts for emphasis. The Caesar chicken salad and the fresh mozzarella Caprese salad were both well seasoned and dressed with good homemade vinaigrette. Also appealing were the plump mussels turned out in your choice of lemon Pernod butter or tomato and basil marinara sauce. In another successful appetizer called Zuppa di Gamberetti, sweet pink shrimp are sautéed and served in "blush" broth with tomatoes and spinach. A "Bambino" menu for children has smaller portions at lower prices. In addition to the menu, there are usually a couple specials. The pasta dishes include ravioli, fettuccine, lasagna, manicotti, linguine, spaghetti and ziti in combination with butter, meat, vegetarian, clams, shrimp, mushroom or tomato sauce, meatballs or sausage. Some of the pasta is homemade, but all pasta is prepared to order, al dente, and the accompanying sauces are richly simmered and seasoned. It is authentic enough to simulate a short trip to Italy that air-traffic controllers cannot ruin.
Maestro’s Linguine Tuttomare
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbs. dry white wine
1/2 c. marinara sauce
1 small can of whole baby clams
4 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large sea scallops
Single portion linguine, freshly cooked
Heat olive oil in heavy saute skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and scallops and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and sauteean additional 15 to 20 seconds. Add the wine and bring to boil, stirring constantly until it is reduced by half. Remove the shrimp and scallops and set aside. Add the clams with half of the juice in the can, the thymne and marinara sauce. Cook for another minute, add scallops, shrimp and linguine and toss. Mix in parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If you're feeling extravagant, try replacing the scallops with 1/2 lb. of lobster. Or substitute a pound of cubed chicken for the seafood and chicken broth for the clam juice. Or do as Maestro does and add sautéed mushrooms, chicken breast, grilled sausage or meatballs on top of the seafood.
Maestro Little Italy
101 Bridge Street
Bradenton Beach • 778 6455