Hot Dish

Hot Dish: March 11, 2009

BY March 11, 2009
Inside the Gulfshore’s dining scene.
Food Fest Overflows with Delicious Dishes and Generous Bidders

I attended an elegant Chef and Vintner Dinner at the home of hosts Marshall and Lori Hanno during the 8th Annual Southwest Florida Wine and Food Fest in late February. 

Lori and Marshall Hanno

The cuisine was created by Executive Chef Nick Costanzo of Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs, and the wines were generously donated by attending vintners Juelle Fisher and daughter Cameron Fisher of Fisher Vineyards.

Vintner Juelle Fisher, Marshall Hanno, Chef Nick Costanzo, Lori Hanno and Vintner Cameron Fisher

Chef Costanzo served a six-course meal in the Hannos’ home equal to Michelin-starred restaurants. His selections included crispy seared black bass, cherry wood smoked duck breast, homemade coffee and candied ginger lamb sausage. 

crispy seared black bass

The restaurant’s sommelier, Angela Robertson, expertly sliced off the glass tops of wine bottles with a saber—I’m not getting on her wrong side!

Angela Robertson

Numerous vintners from California to Oregon donated their time and fine wines for the fundraiser. Local chefs did as well, setting up tasting booths of bite-sized delights. A bonus of having local chefs cook at the event is that quite a few people said that they’d now seek out and dine at some of the restaurants.

The big winners are the children of Southwest Florida, who will benefit from more than $750,000 raised during the two-day event. The dinners in private homes raised $200,000, and the Grand Tasting and Auction, held at the stunning beachfront Miromar Lakes Beach Clubhouse, raised $550,000. 

Auctioneer Scott Robertson and Grand Tasting Emcee Randy Thomas fired up the crowd!

NBC2 Anchor Kellie Burns, Auctioneer Scott Robertson and Emcee Randy Thomas.

Thirty Flavors and Counting…

Paciugo’s Gelato Café in Estero has more than 30 gelato flavors, all hand-made every day from fresh ingredients. Kurt Bensmiller, managing partner, says that at least six flavors change every day. The milk-based gelato has 70 percent fewer calories, and a more concentrated flavor, than many ice creams.

Kurt Bensmiller serves customers at Paciugo Gelato Cafe.

My favorite flavors include Irish coffee, black cherry swirl, dulce de leche and peanut butter. Try milkshakes, smoothies, and also soy-based gelato flavors, no sugar added offerings, and sorbets (I love mango). Their coffees, espressos, and cappuccinos with gelato are unique. Most items sell for less than $5, so it’s perfect for family visits. Paciugo Gelato Café, 23151 Village Shops Way, Suite 113, Coconut Point, Estero. 947-4473.
Let’s broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together. Post your hints and experiences below or e-mail me at

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