Last year, we visited the Sarasota area of Florida. Even though both my husband and I are native Floridians, neither of us had been to that part of the state before. Whenever we are going to be traveling, I research well in advance of the trip where I might be able to find safe, yet interesting gluten-free meals. Being served a meal that consists of plain meat, a baked potato and undressed salad is of no interest to me what-so-ever.
As usual, I checked the Triumph Dining restaurant guide and noticed a pizza place called Vertori’s Pizza listed. It was actually in Bradenton and I didn’t know how far that was from where we’d be in Siesta Key. Doing a quick Mapquest search confirmed that Vertori’s was very near where we’d be so we put in on the list of places to try for dinner. On our first night in town we headed to Vertori’s Pizza. When the server/hostess asked if we needed gluten-free or regular menus, we knew we’d made an excellent choice. That is the only time in four years of gluten-free dining we’d ever been asked such a question.
It was a good thing that I’d checked out the extensive list of offerings on the Vertori’s website before showing up. Otherwise, it might have taken me an hour to narrow it down. Obviously, pizza was a high priority for me, but there were pasta dishes, fried cheese, bread sticks and desserts to consider. There is something exciting about having so many gluten-free choices, instead of just a few. Yet, with this comes the hard task of ordering appropriately and not ordering everything but the kitchen sink.
After some consideration, we ordered the fried cheese to start, a gluten-free pizza and baked ziti. This way we could share everything and try both pizza and pasta. When the fried cheese arrived, it was like being in a dream that you never wanted to wake up from. Fried cheese and gluten-free just don’t go together normally. All I can say was that I could have eaten the appetizer until I needed a wheelbarrow to roll me out of the place. It was incredible in so many ways. Most gluten versions of fried cheese arrive in the restaurant frozen. Vertori’s of course has to make their own and what a difference it makes. Their version was not only fabulous for gluten-free, it was simply fabulous, peroid!
To this day, the gluten-free baked ziti at Vertori’s is the only version we’ve found when dining out and it ranks as one of the best versions of the dish we’ve had anywhere. It was so delicious and again, no gluten eater would know the difference between it and a gluten version. The gluten-free pizza would be the real test. I was so hoping the crust would not taste frozen – regardless of whether it was a frozen product or not. No worries there either. The pizza was so delicious that I had a “Risotteria” moment. No, the crust is not the same as at the famous NYC eatery, but it’s fabulous in its own right. It was hard not to scarf down the whole thing and not take any leftovers, but we needed to sample desserts, after all.
The flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce was delicious, but the key lime pie was incredible. Again, it ranked with some of the best gluten versions of the pie we’ve had anywhere. The crust was made with Pamela’s gluten-free Ginger Snapz. The owner of Vertori’s, Christine Harman, has added even more exciting things to her gluten-free menu since our visit. You can also find Christine’s gluten-free wares at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Just look for the table called “It’s Good To Be Gluten-free”. Yes, I have to agree. It really is – and it’s becoming more so every day!