Quick Bites: A Taste of Tuscany

For over 20 years, Belleview has had a restaurant that stands out from the rest—Pasta Faire Italian Ristorante, which underwent renovations from August 2007 to May 2008. Gone is the white paint, replaced with a warm terra cotta color and an added foyer with a 40-foot ceiling. Inside, the walls are roughly plastered to give them a rustic Tuscan look. The colors are warm and everything from the new booths to the lights to the flooring has been replaced. The renaissance, wood-burning brick oven is still there and adds an aroma throughout to delight the nose as well as the palate.

Owner Kathy Funk took the plunge into the renovations even though she does not own the restaurant… yet.

Since she was 16, Funk has worked at and operated restaurants in Ocala, Belleview, and Gainesville, all under the same owner. When the opportunity to buy one of them arose, her choice was Pasta Faire. “I thought this location had more potential without the high competition,” she says.

Chef Ricardo Cardenas is the main draw according to a few customers sitting close by during my visit. They say he keeps them coming back week after week. An employee there at one time, Ricardo’s experience comes from owning his own restaurant and working in The Villages. “Kathy asked me to come back,” he explains. “She lets me be creative, and I enjoy coming out, meeting the customers, and asking them if they enjoyed their meals.”

My visit started with the bruschetta and a small antipasto salad. Paired with a glass of wine, it was a meal in itself. The Blackened Chicken Pasta was covered in a thick, cheesy alfredo sauce. Kathy chose the dessert for me—the Italian Wedding cake made of sponge cake, chocolate mousse, mascarpone cheese, and raspberry preserves.

Visit pastafaire.com for a menu and details about the all-you-can-eat and buy-one-get-one-free specials. Receive a $10 gift cer-tificate upon joining the restaurant’s e-mail club. For holiday party reservations, call (352) 347-3100.

Just up the road in Ocala on South Pine Avenue, another transition has taken place. What used to be Louie’s Oyster Bar is now Murphy’s Oyster Bar.

Relocated from Miami with his family, Murphy offers fun dining and delicious food, including steaks and a huge variety of seafood. On the menu is fresh Maine lobster, crawfish from Louisiana, and crab from Alaska and Canada. Specials include one- and two-pound whole red snappers and whole tilapias prepared with a special blend of spices.

For lighter fare, the wings are always prepared fresh, never frozen. They’re big and served with any one sauce or a mix you desire. Burgers and subs are also offered. Steaks include the New York strip, ribeye, and T-bone.

Happy hour features reduced prices on raw oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp, and draft beer by the glass or pitcher. Other specials include all-you-can-eat snow crab legs for $39.99 for two.

Celebrating a birthday? Murphy will supply the cake for parties of 10 or more.

Enjoy karaoke and live music Wednesday and Friday nights and your picture could end up among the hundreds of others that line the restaurant’s walls.

Plan your holiday party here and make your reservation early by calling (352) 690-6860.

Nibbles: Panera Bread held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in celebration of the grand opening of its second Ocala restaurant lo-cated in the new Market Street at Heathbrook Mall. Mango’s Downtown has closed but Mango’s Country on Hwy 27 is still in business, and by the time you read this, Cody’s Original Roadhouse should be open. Next issue: Pi On Broadway. Visit this res-taurant’s awesome website at pionbroadway.com. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

What new restaurant would you like to see come to Ocala? E-mail your response to
roseann@ocalastyle.com  and we’ll put the results in future issues.

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