Step inside the kitchen of Casa Benedetto’s Ristorante in Vilano Beach and you will find owners Jay and Robyn Tarantino, alongside their great-nephew and head chef Miguel Romero, cooking up authentic Sicilian food from recipes long-simmered in family tradition.
This old-fashioned eatery retains a rare authenticity, featuring Sicilian dishes uncommonly found in restaurants, like chicken cacciatore, manicotti with handmade crepes and braisole.
Benedetto’s cooks from scratch using family recipes dating back to the early 1900s, when Jay Tarantino’s grandparents, Benedetto and Maria Ferracane, first came from Palermo, Italy, and opened the first of multiple successful family-owned Italian restaurants, Ferracane’s Italian Bakery in Brooklyn.
The restaurant’s ambiance reflects simplicity and history, as family portraits, art and antiques line the walls and Sinatra-era music plays. Benedetto’s can seat 74 customers among its four small dining rooms. Diners can also settle into the sea breeze in the restaurant’s outdoor dining area.
Before stopping in, please note that payment must be made with cash or debit card, credit cards are not accepted.
Q&A WITH OWNER ROBYN TARANTINO
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
The atmosphere of the restaurant is extremely homey, old-fashioned, taking you back. Most people refer to it as feeling like they’re in their grandmother’s home. We have a big emphasis on a lot of family pictures, antique pieces, knick-knacks.
What is your food philosophy?
Less is more. By that, we mean that usually the fewer fresh ingredients you put in a dish, the more delicious it is. Once you start putting too many things into something, it loses. We use a lot of fresh, best-quality ingredients and it’s simple.
What type of cuisine do you specialize in?
Authentic Sicilian style cuisine
What is your signature dish?
We do very well with our veal dishes, and one of our real signature ones is called veal sorrentino. … We call it Benedetto’s Veal Sorrentino, because real veal sorrentino, original recipe, has a slice of fried eggplant on it, but my husband doesn’t like that, so whenever his brother made it for him, he always made it without the eggplant, so we did ours without the eggplant and we call it Benedetto’s Veal Sorrentino.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
Most people say that they judge [an Italian restaurant] by the chicken parmigiana because it gives a chance to taste the sauce and the cheeses, so that’s a good thing, or lasagna. That’s what people are accustomed to in Italian food.
Price Range: Lunch — $-$$ | Dinner — $$-$$$
Location: 165 Vilano Road, St. Augustine, Florida, 32084
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday | Noon to 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday | Closed Sunday