Several months ago, my friend Chip at Oceans and Lands Custom Travel Planners let me know that he was headed to my neck of the woods to explore the Village of the Arts in the middle of Bradenton. Since it had been years since I’ve explored that area, my husband and I decided to join him and Chris for the afternoon. The VOTA website describes the area like this: “The Village is an eclectic mix of early 20th century residential bungalows, Florida Cracker homes, and later additions. The neighborhood features a legal commercial overlay, which enables a rare live/work/play mix. Village boundaries stretch from 9th Ave West to 17th Ave West between 9th St West and 14th St West. Over 275 individual properties are within the Village. McKechnie Field, voted Florida’s best minor league ballpark is a block away, and downtown Bradenton and the Riverwalk, are within easy walking distance?.”
As the VOTA covers a large area, take a tip from my husband and snap a photo on your phone for easier reference. Thank goodness we did, because you can get turned around if you are too busy chatting with your friend. (cough…me….cough).
First things first, we were there for lunch and Chip had done some research and wanted to eat at Ortygia, a Sicilian restaurant owned by Chef Gaetano.
We were a little on the late side for lunch, it was nearly two, so we were a little concerned when no one was inside. Chef Gaetano popped his head of of the kitchen and welcomed us with open arms. Everything looked so good that we had a hard time deciding, so the chef sat down at our table (he also personally took our order and served us) and suggested options to each of us. He was so fun to talk to and we all said that we would go back. From what I have heard, his tiny restaurant can be difficult to get into on the weekends, especially during snowbird season.
Don’t let the tiny yellow house deceive you. Chef Gaetano served up some of the best Sicilian food that I have ever had. He even managed to please my super picky husband, who lived in Sicily and is very particular about food that claims to be true Italian.
As we were leaving, we ‘lost’ Chip. We wandered on down the street before we realized that he wasn’t with it. Turns out, he snuck in the kitchen to talk to the chef who was prepping for dinner.
If I remember correctly, this was a lamb dish. It smelled heavenly. (We also had dessert, but we all forgot to take a photo.)
Afterwards, in an effort to walk off lunch, we took a stroll through the village to check out the sites. As you can see, there are lots of colorful galleries and yard art. Sadly, lots of the galleries had closed for the day, but we all agreed that we would like to come back when it was cooler and participate in one of the many Art Walks that they stage. I think we managed to wear Chris and Scout out. I would highly recommend having lunch or dinner at Ortygia, it is worth the drive. Check out the Village of the Arts website for a calendar of upcoming events.