Quick Bites: A Tasty Tavern

On the edge of Marion County in Summerfield, Taverna Red has opened in Baylee Plaza on US Hwy. 441 where Isabella’s Ristorante used to be. As if owning and running Pasta Faire in Belleview was not enough to keep her busy, Kathy Funk had a calling to open another eatery down the road with long-time business partner Paul D’Alto.

The entire unit was remodeled by Jay Reeves, a Gainesville architect who specializes in restoration and is known for big projects such as The Swamp Restaurant, the D’Acosta House, and Plaza Royale. Inside the restaurant, murals of wine cellars, courtesy of local artist Ed Graves, cover the walls.

Taverna Red is over 3,000 square feet and features plush, high-back booths. A long table in the center of the restaurant with over 20 seats, which Kathy calls “the community table,” is ideal for those who don’t mind sitting down with strangers and walking away with new friends. A covered outdoor area includes tables and chairs, an outdoor bar, TVs, and a fireplace.

The menu consists of artisan sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and wood-oven flatbreads as well as fire-roasted vegetables, lamb, salmon, and steaks.

The evening I visited, I enjoyed samples of dried tomato pesto-stuffed brie with toasted bread and the baked macaroni and cheese made with smoked gouda, white cheddar, and sour cream. Yum! The crispy, wood-oven flatbreads are a mix of explosive flavors and go well with a favorite wine. Taverna Red has a full bar and happy hour, and be sure to try the three-ounce wine samples. Call (352) 693-2008.

Café Havana is under new management in the Magnolia Plaza on North Magnolia. Stop in for breakfast and also enjoy eggs, Cuban coffee and toast, omelettes, sausage, and bacon. For a deal of a meal at lunch or dinner, guests can enjoy the hot bar where they pile on the meat, rice, beans, and a choice of fried sweet plantains or yuca for only $6.99. A la carte items include Cubans, empanadas, papas rellenas, and guava- and cheese-filled pastries. The tres leches cake is the perfect consistency with a milk sauce that’s not too sweet, and customers were raving about the flan. And if that’s not enough, the Cuban espresso and café con leche serve as desserts unto themselves.

“Everything, I mean everything here is made by hand,” says owner Luis Canelon who works with his wife, Laura. “The only thing we don’t make is the sodas and juices. We’re not in the bottling business.”

For those of you who might worry that they can’t handle the spice of Cuban food, don’t worry! It’s just a myth that Cuban food is spicy, although you can add your own hot sauce for some zip. Enjoy pernil (roast pork), fricase picadillo (chicken), vacalao (cod), and everyone’s favorite, ropa viega (shredded beef). Indoor and outdoor seating is limited, so try to get there early for lunch or call your order in ahead of time at (352) 351-4853.

Nibbles:La Cuisine French Restaurant, located in downtown Ocala on SW 1st Avenue, recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with over 100 guests in attendance and delicious mini sandwiches, soups, cheeses, wine, bread, and desserts served. Hosts Patrice Perron and Stéphane Gattacieca and their busy professional
staff were very gracious. Make your reservations now for Mother’s Day by calling (352) 433-2570. Brick City Restaurant and Catering on Silver Springs Boulevard has made headlines again. Owner Al Ellatte is now the executive chef at Jumbolair. The winner of multiple culinary awards, Chef Al can even help you plan a party. Bring Mom in for the Mother’s Day
Buffet and try his new Neapolitan cheesecake. Reservations are highly recommended. Visit brickcitycatering.com or call (352) 867-0905.

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