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A classic twist

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Restaurant: Clasico

Address: 1341 Main St., Sarasota, 34236

Phone: (941) 957-0700


Lunch guests: Terri Behling and Susanna Martinez Tarokh. Behling is external affairs manager of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Martinez Tarokh is the public information officer.

Reservations: Not required

Parking: On the street is difficult, especially during busy tourist season. A parking garage with ample spots is on Palm Avenue, around the corner. Street and garage spots are free.

One-hour lunch test: Passed. Service was attentive. Drinks were filled frequently.

See and be seen: Given the location, at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in downtown Sarasota, the proportion of see and be seen is high. A dozen law firms and wealth management offices are within short walking distance, and many clients and employees come for lunch, says owner Ralph Perna. Some Sarasota city commissioners eat there, too, adds Perna, and there's also a steady influx of tourists, snowbirds and retirees. Outdoor seating is ideal for people-watching over deal-making. “We get everyone from 5 to 95 years old,” says Perna. “It's all over the board. That's what makes it such a great place.”

Privacy: Tables in the middle of the restaurant can get noisy during lunch rush. Several tables along the wall, with a window view of Palm Avenue, are quieter.
Ambiance: Contemporary, with wood tables, high exposed ceilings and soft and natural lighting. Tables, including some high-tops, are set in a zigzag pattern. Large, cushy red chairs and tables are outside, and ivy covers the walls and window alcoves.

Food: The diverse lunch menu goes from standard fare, like fish 'n chips, to the more eclectic, like the vegan Creole style red bean and brown rice burger. The fish 'n chips is $11, the vegan burger is $9. The lunch menu, overall, has flatbreads, salads, sandwiches and a quiche of the day, and ranges in price from $6.50 for a salad to $14 for an artisan cheese plate. The latter comes with local honey, grapes, toasted pistachio, fig compote, Italian breadsticks and flatbread. Other popular choices include the roasted broccoli and cauliflower flatbread, with homemade garlic aioli and parmesan cheese, for $9, and the taco lettuce wraps, for $10. There are seven kinds of salads on the menu, including a beet salad, a raspberry, avocado and cucumber salad, a warm goat cheese salad and a kale Caesar.

Ownership: Perna has been with the space for several years, going back to when it was the Mac on Main Street News and Books Cafe. He opened that store in 2009, shortly after Sarasota News & Books, the previous tenant, closed. Mac on Main focused on coffee and pastries, with a section of books and newspapers and another section for service and consulting on Apple products. Perna turned the location into Clasico in 2013.

The focus initially was on dinner and the bar, says Perna, and lunch was developed slowly. “We thought we made a big mistake at first,” he says. “Everyone thought we were for dinner.”
But Perna says lunch started to click sometime last year. It's done so well, the restaurant recently introduced breakfast.

Review date: January 2015

Power Lunch columns are occasional reviews of restaurants recommended by executives in cities on the Gulf Coast, from Tampa to Naples. To read reviews of other restaurants, visit


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