We explored much of the west coast of Florida before choosing St. Petersburg back in 2009 as our new venue to Eat, Pray, Love. My second favorite area, to St. Pete/St. Pete Beach, is the Siesta Key and St. Armands Key area. I love the sand and sea, and although I detest and do everything possible to avoid a shopping or strip mall, I seek out quaint marketplaces where I can dine and shop for one-of-a-kind gifts. So, combine the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay and St. Armands Circle, and I can create a nearly perfect day.
Originally owned by frenchman Charles St. Amand (his name was misspelled in the land deed, but St. Armand stuck), and later purchased by visionary John Ringling, St. Armands Circle is a unique, timeless, continental-style marketplace offering gourmet dining, elegant shopping, history, beautiful architecture and lush, tropical plantings. There are many dining options, including a Columbia Restaurant of Ybor location, and Lynches Pub & Grub, where they pour a perfect pint of Guinness and serve a pretty nice smoked Irish salmon platter. My favorite baby store is here, Little Bo-Tique, where I purchase all my baby gifts, and Oh My Gauze! is awesome for travel clothing. But our favorite dining spot, by far, is Venezia.
Founded in 1966 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, this family owned and operated bistro opened its doors on the circle in January of 2009. Open seven days a week, 11 am until 10 pm, you are most often served by someone speaking English as their second language, and who is a part of the family. You can dine indoors at a table, hightop, or at the bar, or on the sidewalk in front, which is dog friendly. Meet Chief Rooney, our 1 1/2 year-old Weimaraner, who went along on our most recent visit, and enjoyed his very own order of chicken tenders, fries and a big bowl of ice water.
I almost always begin with an iced bottle of Zonin Prosecco, light, lively and food friendly. Jack usually has a bottle, or two, of Peroni, and the impossible-to-resist antipasto Italiano, with salami, prosciutto, cheeses, olives and artichokes.
If we visit at dinner time, I often order the spaghetti Venezia, which is calamari and shrimp sauteed in a homemade puttanesca sauce of tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers. They always serve delicious fresh bread. We were here for lunch, though, during our visit last month, so I shared Jack’s favorite pizza with him, the Diavola, which is a basic pepperoni pizza,but made with a rich tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and thinly sliced pepperoni. I rarely leave room for dessert, however, the torta de la Nonna, lemon cake, is very good, and in the winter, I like the torta a de Melle (apple pie) with a cup of espresso.
During a visit back in 2010, we were seated just one table away from Venezia regular, Bird Key resident, Jerry Springer, and Sharon Stone is said to frequent the prosecco cooler as well. I encourage you to make a day trip out of this charming area. You won’t regret it, and we are always treated like stars!