The minds behind Verducci’s Pizzeria and Trattoria teamed up to launch a fresh concept next door to their Italian restaurant in St. Pete Beach last year. But co-owners Vinny Fortunato and Giovanni Scamardella’s new project — Verducci’s Italian Market — is just the beginning.
In about six weeks, the market at 7800 Blind Pass Road will transform into Rocco’s Seafood and Steaks at 5 p.m. daily, and like its older restaurant sibling, the spot will offer indoor and outdoor seating.
For those who haven’t been, the market features a small espresso bar with ever-changing desserts. Cannoli and sfogliatelle are among the traditional sweets often available. There’s also an array of red, black and green Cerignola orbs at the olive bar, plus wines from Italy and other parts of the world.
Scamardella and Fortunato planned to add a restaurant to the market from the start, but their cheeses (including a buffalo mozzarella delivered fresh from Naples, Italy, twice a week), prepared Italian delicacies (lasagna and chicken Parmesan are customer favorites), and the rest will continue to be sold.
“You’re going to see all the steaks, all the fish, so you literally see what you are going to buy later for dinner,” Fortunato says. “You go inside, you see your dinner.”
Though surf will be the focus of Rocco’s, meat lovers will find a multitude of turf on the menu. An authentic brick oven will churn out new pizza creations featuring homemade dough, too, and diners can expect to top their pies with seafood staples like lobster and shrimp.
Fortunato, who moved to the U.S. at age 18 unable to speak much English and in pursuit of the elusive American dream, hails from the small Italian town of Monte di Procida. He first landed in Brooklyn, New York, working at a cafe, and after two years, he saved enough money to open his own place. Discovering a knack for the restaurant business, Fortunato later continued his success in Florida. Outside of Verducci’s, locals may know him from his Fortunato’s businesses in the area.
Also a native of Monte di Procida, Scamardella has served as a chef in some top restaurants in Naples, Florida, according to Fortunato, and he’s responsible for creating most of the recipes at the three concepts.
“What we produce you can’t get nowhere else,” Fortunato says.