I just spent the best Sunday with friends, wonderful Italian food and a play that kept me laughing throughout the afternoon.
I had just been invited to join a Red Hats ladies group and I was off on one of their outings to Eustis, Florida. Eustis is about a forty-five minute ride from Summerfield mostly on small county roads not heavily traveled.
The group of ladies included the Queen Mom Caryle, Nancy, Susan, Gloria, Barbara, Frances and myself.
The plan for the day was to have lunch first and then attend a play being put on by the Bay Street Players called “The Ritz”. I was surprised to see that the town for the most part was closed on Sunday. Even so I found this small Florida town to be very quaint and decided that I would return with a week or two on a weekday or Saturday to take a leisurely walk around and visit the shops and restaurants.
The Queen Mom, Caryle had made a reservation at a restaurant within walking distance of the theatre called Café Gianni Restaurant. What a find!
From the moment we walked inside the manager, Franco Lo Giacco, warmly greeted us. He was at all times friendly, charming and seemed very at ease tending to the needs of seven ladies. I discovered that our wonderful host was from the Calabria region of Italy and had only been here in Eustis a short time.
The dining room with its brick walls, wood floors, mixture of dark and light wood, simple but lovely decorations all worked together to create an elegant but very comfortable setting. Beyond the dining room was a great wrap around bar that I easily envisioned myself sitting with friends toasting another good day.
I loved the menu with headings written in Italian with English descriptions for each offering. Everything on the menu sounded wonderful but it was lunchtime and I knew I would be sitting for a few hours so decided that I would have a light lunch.
Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant I always look for my favorite Italian salad, Insalata Caprese and there it was. The rest of the group ordered the Rigatoni Bolognese and Linguine con Cozze in Salsa Rossa.
Our drink order taken a plate of rosemary focaccia bread was brought to the table. The bread was light and flavorful and made you wish you could bring home an entire loaf.
I must tell you that with every bite of my salad I would say things like, “Oh, my this is the best mozzarella I have every had. It is so smooth and creamy. Oh, my these tomatoes are so wonderfully flavorful.” The chopped basil added just the right amount of sweetness to the dish so I was in heaven. The salad was topped with an ever so light homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious!
One of my tablemates, Nancy said, “You must have really liked your salad you talked about it the whole time you were eating”. Oh, dear I did not realize people could hear my declaration of delight after each bite of this wonderful dish.
But you see I was not alone in my enjoyment of the food delivered to our tables. All the ladies were enjoying their meals as much and offering samples to others at the table. Caryle passed around a small plate with a sampling of the Rigatoni Bolognese. It was wonderful. The pasta was al dente and the sauce light and flavorful.
Once lunch was done we were off to the see the play. The play was great. I laughed and laughed at this wonderful comedic farce.
Once home I told my husband that we would definitely have to return to Eustis so he too could enjoy a wonderful meal at the Café Gianni Restaurant.