BOCA GRANDE– A steady flow of people filed through the presidential suite and newly renovated kitchen of the Gasparilla Inn Wednesday, helping themselves to tasty tidbits at an open house to kick off the inn’s 99th season.
An estimated 1,000 people attended — twice as many as in previous open houses — coming from Englewood, Punta Gorda, North Port and other communities nearby.
‘Every year the interest and attendance of our open house has grown,’ said Jack Damioli, president and general manager of the Gasparilla Inn. ‘We’re appreciative not only island support, but the surrounding area support.’
The inn plays host to celebrity weddings and presidents, and is a getaway vacation spot for the George H.W. Bush family.
Executive Chef Peter Timmins talked about the renovated kitchen.
‘Prior to renovation … it was very old equipment,’ Timmins said. ‘We put in a brand-new line and a brand-new chef’s pass. We can actually run banquets out of the back of the house without disturbing the restaurant, which is the major difference between what we’ve been able to do and what we’ll be doing.’
Kitchen renovations were two years in the making.
Asian-glazed pork, goat-cheese bruschetta and white asparagus vichyssoise, among other things, were served to visitors in bite-sized pieces. The inn operates a variety of restaurants across Gasparilla Island.
‘For the open house, what we’re trying to do is make sure that people have the idea what we’re like,’ Timmins said. ‘All of our items here are on our menu somewhere, but not necessarily in the main dining room.’
‘The place is gorgeous,’ said C.J. Hardy, a Port Charlotte resident who toured the inn. ‘The staff is phenomenal.’
Mary Norman spends part of the year living in Punta Gorda and the other part in Boston. She said the inn feels familiar.
‘It’s so like Nantucket,’ Norman said. ‘There are lots of places to sit. It’s very impressive. I wish I (could) afford to stay here.’
Chris Andrew of Port Charlotte said the atmosphere was upbeat and wanted to see the presidential suite.
‘I think people are drawn to places that have a certain tradition and a certain following,’ Damioli said. ‘I think the inn is one of those places on this island. It’s 99 years old. Lots of famous people. I think people are always curious about that.’
For more information, go to http://www.the-gasparilla-inn.com, or call 941-964-4500.