Chef Vinny Esposito’s passion for Italian cuisine runs deep.
Esposito, 67, opened Vinny’s Italian Kitchen at 5337 Gulf Drive, Suite 500, one week ago. He still remembers the tastes from his childhood and the flavors that came out of his grandmother Maria’s kitchen in Naples, Italy.
It’s those tastes, and those from his Italian-American family in New Jersey that he joined when he was 17, that he seeks to share with guests.
“Little Italy in the heart of Anna Maria,” is how Chef Vinny — or Chef Vincenzo, if you will — sums it up.
But it’s not just the tastes that Esposito is keen to share. It is a warm family feel as well.
Vinny’s stock-in-trade is gourmet takeout and catering. Vinny’s also offers on-premises seating: 12 inside seats and eight outside on the deck overlooking Gulf Drive.
Customers come for the Italian deli meats and cheeses, brick oven pizza, artisan breads, hot and cold sandwiches, Italian pastries, cookies and cakes, gelato, espresso and groceries.
Lunch size entrees are available for between $8.95 and $9.95, ranging from baked ziti to eggplant parmigiana to Italian meatballs and more.
Italian specialties are available in dinner sizes for one to two servings starting at $12.95 and in party sizes for eight to 10 servings, starting at $49.95.
More than likely, your favorite Italian dish is on the menu, everything from linguini with clam sauce to veal parmigiana to gnocchi bolognese and pasta marinara.
For the record, Chef Vinny’s personal favorite is eggplant rollatini. It is also the favorite of his niece and business manager Laura Micciche.
“He makes the best I have ever eaten,” Micciche said. “We have hot foods, incredible sandwiches and brick-oven pizza.”
Vinny’s also offers a gluten-free menu. In the future, he plans to add beer and wine to the menu.
“It’s about making people feel welcome and at home,” Micciche said of Vinny’s.
Sous chef Idalis Gonzalez echoes that thought.
“It’s like a family, a big family,” Gonzalez said.
Esposito’s long cuisine history includes operating Vinny and Cheryl’s Italian Restaurant for seven years in Anna Maria, and years of restaurant and catering experience in New Jersey, where clients included musician Carlos Santana and the cast of “The Sopranos.”
Esposito left New Jersey for Florida to “slow down a bit,” but his return to the restaurant business started with making loaves of Italian bread, which he shared with neighbors, and grew into wanting to create what he knew best.
“I was always in my grandmother Maria’s kitchen. That influenced me to want to cook,” he said.
He also learned a bit of business from his other Italian grandmother, Teresa, who sold cheese in Rome.
It is from those Italian influences, and the American branch of the family that has been in the Newark, New Jersey, area since 1908, that Esposito takes inspiration.
“We don’t use artificial flavors or colors. Ninety percent of our ingredients come from Italy and the other 10 percent from New York and New Jersey,” he said.
“You come to my house and I will serve you the best food ever,” Esposito said.
Vinny’s Italian Kitchen is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed Sundays.
For more information, call 941-896-9754 or visit italianami.com.