Ferraro’s Italian Grille: Bringing Sicily to Florida

By LISA STARK

Francesco LoGrande creates fresh pizza customized to your taste. Lisa Stark photos.

Francesco LoGrande creates fresh pizza customized to your taste. Lisa Stark photos.

Ferraro’s Italian Grille is conveniently located in the heart of Parrish.

Ferraro’s Italian Grille is conveniently located in the heart of Parrish.

If you’re looking for the perfect pizza, you may want to go talk to Francesco at Ferraro’s Italian Grille in Parrish. After complaining to my friends that I haven’t had a great pizza since moving to Florida two years ago, I walked into Ferraro’s and finally found my ideal fix.

“What do you like?” asked Ferraro’s owner, Francesco LoGrande, whose family has been serving Italian specialties in America for three generations. He nodded, smiled warmly, and walked over to the grille to create my dream pie — a homemade, thin, crispy crust with a simple topping of sweetly seasoned sauce, authentic mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. The result was, well … yum.

“We make our pizza to suit the person,” said Francesco. “Our dishes are authentic Sicilian style, but we’ve made them go well with the American palate.”

It’s clear that Ferraro’s staff pride themselves on making sure each and every customer is satisfied. “Americans like more of everything — more cheese, more sauce, more toppings,” said Francesco. “We make sure you get what you want.”

Their history of success speaks volumes for this philosophy. The LoGrande family has been serving authentic Italian cuisine in America since 1980. Their family recipes were developed in their home province of Bisacquino, Sicily, in the1950s, and have since been enjoyed in New York, New Jersey and Florida. “We use the freshest ingredients we can find,” said Francesco. “Our customers expect it.”

“The food is outstanding,” said Ron Wilkinson, who patronizes Ferraro’s for lunch on a weekly basis, along with eight to 10 friends from his golf league.

“I personally love their Cheesesteak subs,” said golf buddy Ron Wilkinson, “that and their friendly staff.”

Whether you choose to dine in, sit on the patio, or take your dinner home, you can expect a quality meal. “One of our most popular dishes is our eggplant parmesan, made from fresh eggplant grown right here in Florida,” said Francesco. “We also use homemade dough, homemade meatballs and our own sauce — nothing comes from a jar.”

Francesco makes sure he is there every day, greeting customers and running kitchen operations along with sons Anthony and Salvador. “The real difference is that we are not a franchise,” he said. “It is us that faces the people, not some big corporate giant.”

Ferraro’s staff holds the pizza pan used to create the “LoGrande Pizza Challenge.” From left, Head Chef Jason Santana, Francesco Lo Grande, and sons Anthony and Salvador.

Ferraro’s staff holds the pizza pan used to create the “LoGrande Pizza Challenge.” From left, Head Chef Jason Santana, Francesco Lo Grande, and sons Anthony and Salvador.

Happy customers, from left: Bob Utter, Miles Dorhaut, Tom Collins, Don Curtis, Lee Sattler, George Egmond, Ron Wilkinson and Tom Nicholson.

Happy customers, from left: Bob Utter, Miles Dorhaut, Tom Collins, Don Curtis, Lee Sattler, George Egmond, Ron Wilkinson and Tom Nicholson.

Originally from Italy, Francesco moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., 40 years ago, where he met his wife, Francesca, and started his first American restaurant. In 2004, the family moved to Florida, establishing an Italian restaurant first in Punta Gorda, then in Sarasota. When the opportunity arose in 2009 to open a restaurant in Parrish, they jumped at the chance.

“The people in Parrish are great,” said Francesco, “and we welcome our friends in Sun City Center as well. They’re just a short hop down the road.”

With two restaurants to operate, plus two sons, a daughter and six grandchildren, Francesco stays busy. “But we still make time to go back every year to Bisacquino, (where he still own a family home) to visit our family and take a vacation,” he said.

Currently, Ferraro’s Italian Grille is offering a dinner special featuring two full dinners for $22. They also offer a variety of daily lunch specials, along with their gutsy “LoGrande Pizza Challenge” for the more daring diners. The Challenge features an enormous 28-inch pizza pie with five toppings of your choice, which, if eaten in 40 minutes, is free. The victor also receives a $25 Ferraro’s gift card.

“We offer something for everyone,” said son Anthony, who was bustling around serving lunch customers beer and homemade meatball subs. “We have an old-fashioned 16-inch-square deep-dish pizza, plus a lot of lunch specials. People love the lunch-sized spaghetti and meatballs.” Their menu is also packed with items like shrimp scampi, rigatoni Bolognese, spinach ravioli in vodka sauce, stuffed shells, New Zealand mussels, chicken marsala, and veal saltimbocca, to name a few.

“Everything here is great,” said regular patron Bob Utter. “I look forward to eating here every week.”

In addition to serving fine Italian food, Ferraro’s also reaches out to the community by supporting local sports teams, charities and community events.

“It’s pretty simple,” said Francesco. “We deal with local people.  If you do something good or if you do something bad, everybody knows about it.”

Ferraro’s Italian Grille is at 8348 U.S. 301 N.

For more information, check ferrarositaliangrille.com or call 941-723-1111.

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