Tradition is the key ingredient in the homemade sauces, breads and pastas that have made a dining staple in downtown Bradenton since the restaurant opened more than a decade ago.
Armed with a collection of Italian recipes passed down through generations of their family, Maria and Michael Favasuli a sister and brother team from Pennsylvania, opened the restaurant in 2000. They have been serving up some of the most popular strombolis, pasta and pizza in town ever since.
“For as long as I can remember, we always wanted to be in the kitchen with our mom and our grandma,” Maria Favasuli said. “Whatever they would let us do, we’d do, so we both started cooking at a very early age. I remember my brother making sausage with my dad when he was about seven years old.”
Favasuli said that when her father and grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Calabria region in southern Italy, they brought their authentic recipes for sauces, bread, pasta and other Italian staples with them — all of which found their way into the menu at Fav’s Italian Cucina.
From sandwich bread to dinner rolls, Alfredo sauce to marinara, mozzarella cheese, and fresh fettuccini and lasagna noodles, nearly everything at Fav’s is made from scratch.
“Real ingredients are what really set a good sauce apart from the rest,” said Favasuli. “Take an Alfredo sauce for instance. Most places make it from a roux and end up burning out the salt — but the salt is what makes a real Alfredo. We use good quality cheese and fresh cream for ours, and so it maintains that richness and salty flavor.”
All of the sauces, from the Alfredo to the red pasta and even the pizza sauce, are made fresh to-order at Fav’s — never in a vat or frozen in large quantities. The same goes for both the honey mustard and the Parmesan-peppercorn salad dressings and, most impressively, the pasta noodles themselves.
“We make five pounds of pasta dough three times per week so it’s always fresh,” Favasuli said, and it’s all hand-cranked. "We grew up doing it that way, and my brother and I both still hand-crank our own pasta at home, too.”
She confessed that although the restaurant used to make in-house ravioli from scratch, the labor-intensive process made it impossible to keep up with the demand. Fav’s now receives its ravioli from Joseph’s Pasta in Tampa. The restaurant also orders sausage from a company based in Tampa.
“To the degree that it’s possible we’re geared toward keeping our flavor as fresh, authentic and homemade as possible — like what we were used to growing up. But if we can’t make it ourselves, we do try to get it locally whenever possible,” Favasuli said.
There are no surprises on the menu at Fav’s, where traditional Italian fare reigns supreme — but it is the restaurant’s dedication to its recipes and cooking methods that set it apart from many other Italian eateries.
Stromboli is one of the most popular menu items at Fav’s Italian Cucina. The restaurant is also known for its pizza and submarine sandwiches like the hot meatball sub, which features homemade meatballs and red sauce with mozzarella cheese on fresh-baked Italian flat bread.
Most items on the lunch menu — primarily subs, salads, strombolis and pizza — cost well under ten dollars and are quick to prepare, making the restaurant a popular spot for the 9-to-5 local business crowd.
The dinner menu features more pasta dishes, like the Baked Tortellini RoseMarie (cheese Tortellini baked in a tomato cream sauce with Italian sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese) and Fav’s Homemade Lasagna.
Fav’s features an ever-changing selection of specials that Favasuli said are posted daily on the restaurant’s Facebook page. To become a fan of Fav’s on Facebook and stay up to date with dinner specials and restaurant news, visit the Facebook fan page.
“We’re really lucky to be in a place like downtown Bradenton,” Favasuli said. “It’s such an up and coming area, and all the business owners are so friendly and supportive of one another. No one competes with each other. We all just want to see our neighbors succeed.”
Pay a visit to Fav’s any time between 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. on Fridays and until 9 p.m. on Saturdays.