Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An Upscale Mall Gets Fine Dining

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

An Upscale Mall Gets Fine Dining

Article excerpt

When I was a young kid with a first job inside Sarasota Square, the connection between malls and food started to solidify. That's when the food court phenomenon took off with a vengeance, giving shoppers a myriad of dining options to go along with the cornucopia of retail stores. No need to leave the building - all your needs are provided for.

For some reason, though, Southgate Mall never really adopted the food court model. There have been restaurants - Toojays and Cosimo's for most of recent memory - but other dining options failed to thrive. Maybe it was intentional, since Southgate has always attempted to maintain an aura of luxury that fast food Chinese and cardboard pizza from Sbarro's can't match. Sak's and snacks? Maybe not.

Earlier this year, Ziti opened in the former Cosimo's space, with a design and culinary aesthetic that matches the upscale mall philosophy.

Despite the name, Ziti is only partially Italian. The menu is a mishmash of pan-Asian dishes, Italian classics, American standards and the occasional crossover fusion creation. That means you can have seared tuna with wasabi, ginger and sriracha sauce alongside mussels and clams in saffron broth, or gorgonzola penne with Vietnamese scallops.

On the whole, Ziti's kitchen executes this international culinary tour with precision and skill. Those wasabi scallops are huge and perfectly seared - outside crusty, inside tender and sweet. The accompanying sauce is too creamy for the scallops, with very little wasabi bite to cut through the richness, but the core of the dish is superb.

Same with the restaurant's soups, including asparagus-shiitake bisque and tomato bisque, both a touch too heavy on the cream but with enough flavor for the ingredients to shine through.

Ziti also makes flatbread, most of which are a welcome departure from the normal pizza tropes. One is scattered with slices of smooth, ripe avocado, thinly sliced tomatoes and plenty of roughly chopped basil while another is a riot of color from shredded carrots, snap peas, bean sprouts, chicken and Thai peanut sauce. …

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