Amore Restaurant Channels Culinary Traditions from Portugal

Good Bite

Pictured: The cataplana de marisco, or seafood cataplana at Amore Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Amore Restaurant.

As travelers gear up for summer, Portugal occupies a prominent place on their trip itinerary. Renowned for its intricate and colorful mosaics, stunning coastal cliffs and turquoise waters, Portugal boasts an impressive culinary scene. At Amore Restaurant in Sarasota, Portuguese chef and owner Tito Vitorino shares his passion for his native homeland’s food with guests.

Vitorino grew up in the Alto Douro region from which port wine hails. He learned to cook around age seven or eight by observing his mother and grandmother and creating new recipes with his brother, to varying degrees of success. He spent his adolescence tending the vineyards with his grandfather. “I was always curious and playing around with recipes,” he says. Moving to the Algarve region in the south of the country, Vitorino furthered his skills while familiarizing himself with that area’s cuisine.

Following a friend he met in the Algarve, he moved to the United States, working in the Miami-based cruise industry before settling in Sarasota, where he collaborated with various restauranteurs and took on a leadership role at Amore. The restaurant’s current iteration, located on Lime Ave., represents the third stage of the business’s evolution. Half of the menu offers Portuguese delights; the other half features Italian staples. “A lot of customers come for Italian food because that’s what they’re comfortable with, but 70 percent of them turn the page and get hooked on a Portuguese item.”

Vitorino recommends that guests sample the best-loved and most traditional dishes the country has to offer, like salted cod fritters, or bolinhos de bacalhau in Portuguese. “Salted cod for us Portuguese is like pasta for the Italians. We eat more salted cod than the rest of the world combined. There’s a saying in Portugal that says we have 365 salted cod recipes, one for each day of the year, but believe me, that number is higher.” Amore sources its salted cod from Portugal, ensuring that the product is of the highest quality and authenticity. From the Algarve region, Amore serves cataplana dishes. The meal takes its name from the spherical pot used to cook a variety of ingredients using steam and pressure. The cataplana de marisco, or seafood cataplana, is a fan favorite. For dessert, Vitorino insists on sampling the scrumptious pastel de nata, an egg custard tart ubiquitous across the country, from fine dining establishments to the local corner cafe.

With a cozy interior and kitchen with an open glass window, Amore recreates the experience that many foodies dream of, stumbling upon a cozy and inviting spot with a dedicated team preparing tasty food. As part of the Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week, Amore offers guests a three-course menu to sample popular dishes, which will be available through November. If you can’t make it to Portugal this summer, Amore is the perfect culinary staycation.

Amore Restaurant, 180 North Lime Ave., Sarasota, amorelbk.com.

Pictured: The cataplana de marisco, or seafood cataplana at Amore Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Amore Restaurant.

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