When the kataifi shrimp arrives at Opus Restaurant & Lounge in Gulf Gate, the impression it makes nearly defies words. Though it may look familiar to Greeks, to the rest of us it looks like some absurd postmodern sculpture, a cheeky mash-up of aquatic life and a bird’s nest. The shrimp tails protrude from a tangle of threads and each morsel rests on a puddle of sweet and spicy cherry sauce dashed with za’atar. In the end, after a bit of wonder and, admittedly, puzzlement, the dish is just a deliciously approachable bit of shrimp wrapped in threads of dough and deep fried. And that’s what Opus seems to do with its entire menu; take something classic and tasty like the Greek specialty of kataifi-wrapped shrimp and augment it with seasonality and locally sourced product.

Created in collaboration between proprietor Richard Carney and Executive Chef Kyle Harrington, the menu borrows from Carney’s culinary palate and Harrington’s fine dining background, which began in Gasparilla Inn’s upscale kitchens on Boca Grande nearly 20 years ago. Carney, a former interior designer who hails from Buffalo, NY, and Harrington, born in South Philadelphia, were eager to celebrate cuisines of the western Mediterranean coastline, from Tunisia and Spain to France and Italy. Carney, unsurprisingly, also handled the restaurant’s modern yet warm design, with lots of blues and earth tones offsetting the sleek lines of the building itself.

A caponata pays homage to Carney’s Sicilian roots. Specifically, the inclusion of pine nuts skew the small plate towards the Catania style of the dish, but no matter the region of Sicily, Opus’s caponata is dense with eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes, olives, capers and parsley. Depending on how the locally sourced produce looks that day, Harrington might garnish the dish with parsley or basil, but either way, when dolloped on the toasted baguette it eats more like a healthy entrée than a light appetizer.

Another common application of caponata is to serve it with fish, and Opus does just that with the seasonal Gulf snapper entrée. An ample cut of snapper comes seared with the skin on, giving it a bit of crunch and crackle that complements the buttery and delicate cut of fish. The caponata rests underneath the fish, which makes it easy to get all the flavor profiles in one bite, including a garlicky salsa verde so good it can make a microwaved corn dog taste divine. A squeeze of lemon juice from the grilled lemon expands the flavor profile further still, adding a bit of pep to an otherwise unctuous dish. The gateway gimlet cocktail pairs well with the snapper. Made with gin, muddled basil, St. Germaine, lemon juice and house made ginger syrup, the dry, citrusy and slightly sweet drink cuts nicely through the richness of the plate.

But if rum is more your speed, the Opus old fashioned beckons. Diplomatico rum, chocolate bitters and a coconut ice cube give this iteration of the popular drink less bite than its whisky counterparts. This drink pairs well with the roasted chicken entrée, which comes with a whole bird bronzed as perfectly as a lifeguard on Baywatch. The jus from the roasting process rings around the ample serving of pomme puree (mashed potatoes) made with two parts Yukon potatoes and one part sweet cream butter. When all of it is combined with the mushroom gravy, the umami is off the charts.

Steak frites offer what is likely the easiest win on the menu, with perfectly charred butcher’s steak served with frites that check all of the boxes—a little crispy, a little tender inside, exquisitely savory. A harissa ketchup brings a touch of spice to the fries while a salsa Española should not be overlooked as an accompaniment to the steak. Though listed as an entrée, the plate can easily be shared on account of the steak being cut into slices. If shared, it may leave room for the quattro formaggi peppers, Opus’s version of a Buffalo favorite. Hungarian wax peppers, which can vary on the Scoville scale from bite to bite, come stuffed with ricotta, gorgonzola, pecorino and mozzarella. The creamy cheeses inside offset the heat of the peppers, though a tall glass of water should remain close by.

While the kataifi shrimp or Gulf snapper might be more deserving of signature status at Opus on account of their more ambitious, complex flavor profiles, the dish most likely to sell out every night is the pappardelle. Yes, many Italian restaurants in the Sarasota region boast some form of braised short rib ragú served atop freshly made pasta, but it’s a dish so categorically wonderful that it warrants a spot on any menu. The broad noodles are made from scratch, giving them the perfect al dente consistency while a four- to five-hour braise time on the short ribs provide ample time for the fat to render into a silky, finger-licking affair. A fair warning. Like all comfort food, this dish is hefty, which means it should be eaten with caution if you hope to try one of the scratch-made desserts.

A crispy, sticky baklava comes with a nuttier profile than most thanks to a hearty dose of diced pistachios while a seasonal crostata makes use of Harrington’s mother’s dough recipe—and a worthy legacy it is. Crispy yet fork tender, the crostata comes stuffed with compotes of whatever seasonal fruit is available. Served with a Frangelico whipped cream on the side, the dessert is assuredly worth leaving room for. For those with bottomless joie de vivre, head next door to the Opus lounge for a nightcap of house made limoncello.