The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 20 - February 4, 2009


Via Italia – a traditional Italian trattoria

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CHANTELLE LEWIN Owners Marlene and Mike McGowan
and Manager Lynn Johnson show the restaurant’s awards.

In Italian cities there’s a trattoria on practically every corner – petite, intimate eateries with good quality food and plenty of it at reasonable prices. When Mike McGowan opened Via Italia his goal was to replicate the casual low key experience of an Italian trattoria, a goal he has happily reached.

McGowan has lived in Florida for 30 years migrating from the New York City region to work as a golf pro in Florida’s 12 -month golfing climate. Along the way, he also worked in a variety of restaurants learning the business from some of the top chefs in the area.

When he had the opportunity to open his own restaurant, he and his wife, Marlene McGowan, fashioned a traditional Italian trattoria menu, even using some of her family’s recipes. Their menu includes pasta dishes ranging from linguine with seafood to ravioli with spinach, as well as fish, shrimp, chicken and veal entrees. Start the meal with fried calamari or a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and end it with Via Italia’s award winning tiramisu, or call ahead and order your favorite dish to go.

Via Italia’s excellence has been recognized by winning five awards from the Taste of Manatee including Best Of The Best and Best Dessert for its tiramisu. And if there was an award for best manager, server and all around restaurant person it would go to Lynn Johnson attracting repeat customers who, as McGowan says, just want to come in and see her.

Unlike an Italian Trattoria where house wine by the jug is usually served, Via Italia has a very extensive selection of wine prominently displayed on the wall separating the restaurant from the bar. In addition, its signature dinner special is dinner for two including an appetizer, choice of soup or salad, entrée, Tiramisu for dessert and a select bottle of either red or white wine for $59.95 for two. On Valentine’s Day there with be additional specials as well as roses for the ladies.

Mike McGowan says he, his wife and their staff all do the best they can to make their customers happy with a combination of good quality and great service. McGowan likes to call Via Italia an Italian pub, which like life, is a work in progress. Whether you call Via Italia a restaurant, trattoria or pub, the one thing you will definitely call it is Italian in the best tradition.

Via Italia Ristorante Italiano
6777 Manatee Ave.W., Bradenton
Monday through Saturday
5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
American Express, Visa and MasterCard

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story
The importance of the savings rate

Investment Corner

We would all likely agree, especially now that frugality is back in style, that a high rate of savings is a good thing, both at the personal and national level. Savings allows families and nations to build wealth, reduce reliance on debt and weather the inevitable economic recessions easier than someone who is cash strapped. Perhaps, most importantly, a life of strong savings can allow for flexibility and quality of life in the years after you choose to hang up the business suit for a golf shirt.

There has been a lot of negative press directed at the low savings rate of the United States as a nation for the last couple decades. In the 1960s and 1970s the savings rate was in the 6 to 10 percent range, but in the early 1980s began a descent that has taken it to as low as zero during the early 2000s. The rate actually went negative for a brief period in 2005. As the economy has slowed in the last year, savings has seemed to recover somewhat.

I believe some of the criticism is warranted because we have seen some of our fellow citizens let debt get out of control and make their lives miserable as they struggle to keep up with mounting payments. Some succumb to bankruptcy as a way out, but the lasting effects from that process may not be so fun either.

Some criticism could also be levied at the method used to calculate the savings rate and the artificially low level it indicates we, as a nation, are saving. Here’s the very simple method used to keep track of a national savings rate: Income – federal tax – expenditures = savings

Simple enough, right? Makes sense until you look at the items that are not included, or in some cases included, that tend to drive the indicated rate down.

Income includes only job-related income and social security. Income from private pension plans and capital gains are not counted. When employers make contributions to a retirement plan it is counted, but not the higher value that is drawn as income after a worker retires and the value of the assets in the plan have appreciated over time.

The appreciation in value of the houses and investments we own (No, I’m not joking, but I am considering long periods of time) creates wealth that is spendable at some point in the future, but none of this is captured in the calculation of the savings rate.

What is captured is the total of all federal taxes paid. Even taxes paid on capital gains realized when appreciated assets are sold and the tax paid on private pension income is counted, even though the growth of the asset that created the taxable income is not.

The interesting phenomena is that when times are good and asset values are rising, the savings rate tends to go down. We pay more in taxes due to more capital gains on our investments and we may spend more because we feel good about our prospects, yet the increase in the value of the investments does not count while the higher amounts of taxes and expenditures do. Recently, the savings rate has been rising as the economy entered the current recession. Doesn’t make much sense at first glance, but when you consider that no one is paying any capital gains taxes of significance due to the drop in asset values and we all seem to be spending less, so the savings rate tends to rise during harder economic times.

There seems to be some dispute as to whether the savings rate accurately includes 401K and IRA contributions and I was unable to find conclusive data before finalizing this article. One other item of note – inheritance does not appear to be factored into the savings rate calculation. The largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history started several years ago, and will carry on for several more years. We have households inheriting appreciated assets which are not counted as income and tend to force the indicated savings rate down, even though the inheriting family is now wealthier than before.

The dispute will go on, but I suspect the answer is somewhere in between. We should, as a nation, be saving more, but we may not be as bad off as some would have you believe. After all, recent estimates place the amount of cash held in short-term savings instruments at over $8 trillion, and that doesn’t count the still sizable values of stocks and bond holdings owned by investors. Seems like someone is saving something around here.

Tom Breiter is President of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing.

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