Gulf Gate Beat

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In his 2012 article, "The Next Hot Sarasota Neighborhoods," SarasotaMagazine's Mr. Chatterbox Bob Plunket predicts the good fortune we homeowners and residents of Gulf Gate enjoy today. When he wrote the piece, I was working on my own department of the magazine, "25-Person Poll," as I earned my BA in Creative Writing from Eckerd College. I could not have known that all these years later, I'd own one of the Mid-Century Modern Gulf Gate gems he so eloquently describes as "architectural classics….the Craftsman bungalows of tomorrow."

Plunket's article is so comprehensive that I've decided to piggyback off it to introduce my "Gulf Gate Sarasota Beat" blog. I'll do my best to churn out posts about Gulf Gate landmarks and Gulf Gate Village local businesses while I enjoy serving the Gulf Gate housing market as a full-time Realtor® with Michael Saunders & Company - Palmer Ranch.

Plunket's topics run the gamut from the value of Gulf Gate Homes and Gulf Gate Condos (then $100,000 to $150,000) to the economic rise of the restaurants and bars in Gulf Gate Village, which he singularly credits for the success of the neighborhood's worthiness to be called "Gulf Gate" today. He points to some anchoring businesses in the Village, and I decided to begin with Il Panificio.

I reached out to the ever-thriving Italian hot spot and spoke to Restaurant Manager and Gulf Gate Resident Jose Martinez, who has lived and worked for Il Panificio in Gulf Gate Village for three and a half years. Martinez lives above the pizzeria in one of its two apartments, owned by Restaurateurs Tracy and Nick Melone. The duo brought their successful downtown Sarasota business model to Gulf Gate Village eight years ago. (The first Il Panificio opened on Main Street in 1991.)

Martinez recalls the success of the businesses when Gulf Gate Sarasota was a burgeoning "hot neighborhood." Martinez sums it up as an eventful place. "About eight years ago, I used to come here because there was always a lot going on," he says. "When it comes to where to go, it's always been here or downtown." Although the pizzeria, restaurant, and full bar is currently rockin' with our Sarasota Snowbird Season in high gear, Martinez explains that the locals help maintain a good pace throughout the year.

Now let's talk pizza.

I personally dig the pizza at Il Panificio, but in order to achieve a fair, accurate, and balanced opinion, I reached out to Gulf Gate Homeowners using an app from the website Nextdoor.com. It's a social network I don't think even Sarasota's own Nostradamus, Bob Plunket, could have predicted. Interestingly enough though, I also learned about it from a more recent Sarasota Magazine article by Ilene Denton - another cohort from my days in journalism.

Denton talks about how community residents were able to come together during Hurricane Irma. Having just bought my Gulf Gate home, I experienced this mini-crisis first-hand. I quickly got to know Larry, the guy across the street. Larry loaned me the drill, and in return, I was able to provide him with the extra shutters he needed for his sliding glass doors and garage window. I am particularly impressed by the opportunity Nextdoor.com gives us to keep eyes on one another's pets in Gulf Gate Estates, but I digress.

An eager Gulf Gate Homeowner and Il Panificio fan, Ken Joncha, responded to my Nextdoor post within the day. A Chicago native, Joncha purchased his Gulf Gate home with his wife, and he immediately began searching—for the perfect pizza. "Il Panificio makes the best pizza that I have ever found around here," his post reads.

He tells me that he likes Il Panificio's pizza so much he sometimes eats it cold for breakfast, a practice he says finds his wife sucking on a lemon.

Joncha's home is only a few blocks away from Il Panificio. He shares a story about his wife once abandoning him there while she takes off shopping stores of Gulf Gate Village. "She left me there sitting outside," he writes. "The waitress brought me my pizza, and I sat there happy as a clam and ate a few slices."

Il Panificio is located at 6644 Gateway Avenue, Sarasota, and is open Sunday through Thursday 10am to 9pm, Friday to Saturday 10am to 10pm. For more info, call (941) 921-5570 or click here.

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