One new local eatery aims to thoroughly sate your appetite for New York pizza and Italian home cooking. The other might help you lose post-pandemic poundage.

Hmm. What a choice.


In 2003, when the Simonetti family moved to Port Charlotte from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, owning their own restaurant was the last thing on their minds.

This February, all their hard work and savings paid off.

They opened Santa Lucia Pizzeria and Restaurant in the former Father & Son Pizzeria on Duncan Road, behind the new Sandman Books location.

Sal Simonetti’s daughter Lucia, who now works with her parents, posted a heartfelt TikTok video captioned “A dream come true for a little Italian man coming here with absolutely nothing, making everything and anything happen for his family!”

Word of mouth from the nearby Walmart distribution center and others has been drawing customers in ever since the place opened.

Sal, a Neapolitan pro who’s cooked in Italian restaurants for years, isn’t real impressed with frozen lasagna or meatballs. He insists on scratch-making all of his mouthwatering dishes — like New York-style pizza, lasagna, chicken piccata, pepperoni pinwheels and garlic knots.

“If he had time, I think he’d even make the mozzarella,” said Maria, his wife of 30 years. “He knows how.”

Santa Lucia Pizzeria ($-$$, M), 941-621-8027, 5240 Duncan Road (Sandman Books plaza), Punta Gorda, is open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 1 to 8 p.m.


Vanessa Sannan recently moved to Port Charlotte from Minnesota where, she admits, she was a tired, overweight mother of two.

She stopped at a Zest Nutrition shop in her hometown, tried one of their protein meal replacement shakes, loved it, and found it gave her more energy to exercise and lose weight.

She ended up losing 45 pounds, and people started asking her how she did it.

Sannan loves helping others, so she’s opened her own shop in Port Charlotte’s Village Marketplace. She calls it a nutrition club, but you don’t really have to join anything to enjoy Zest Nutrition’s products.

Its specialties are 225-calorie protein meal replacement shakes, packed with 24 grams of protein (about the same as 4 ounces of chicken), vitamins and minerals.

You might be tempted to guzzle the shakes all by themselves or mixed into coffees. But drink them along with metabolism-enhancing energy teas, which can include collagen, belly-fat burners, probiotics, fiber or immunity boosters, and Sannan says that you’ll burn extra calories and have more energy.

“My favorite shake flavor is Brownie Batter, which is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate,” she said.

But there are more than 40 other flavors, like Lemon Pound Cake, Cherry Dipped Cone, Fried Ice Cream, Butterfinger and Strawberry Cheesecake, to choose from.

There are also blizzards, with a protein bar tossed in.

“I’ll help find the right mix for you, whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, add muscle, gain energy. For instance, our weight loss suggestion is two meal replacement shakes, two teas, two high-protein snacks and one healthy meal a day. To gain weight, people use a shake as a snack on top of three meals a day.”

Zest Nutrition ($, M), 952-220-1697, 1825 Tamiami Trail, Unit E5 (Village Marketplace, in front of Finnegan’s), Port Charlotte, is open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at

Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage. Outside dining available = O. Masked servers = M.


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