Taste and tell: 20 Blount restaurants to be featured at 12th annual Taste of Blount Thursday
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount Countians, no doubt, are eagerly awaiting the day when Dead End BBQ and Calhoun’s open their doors in our great community. Already in the past few months, we’ve added Il Sapore Italian Grill and Flaherty’s Irish Pub to our list of new choices for lunch and dinner.
With so many new places locating here, it’s hard to try them all.
Not if you partake of all they have to offer at the 12th annual Taste of Blount, being held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The above mentioned eateries and several others are participating in the event that gives us the chance to sample savory favorites from restaurants, caterers and grocers in our area. Ticket holders also get to vote for their favorite appetizer, main course, sandwich, dessert, beverage, presentation and overall winner. It all takes place at the Theater in the Park, which is located next to Blount County Courthouse.
New kids on the block
Il Sapore is one of Blount County’s newest restaurants, opening just a few months ago on International Avenue in Alcoa, just off Airport Highway behind Taco Bell. General Manager Roberto Lerma said Taste of Blount is a great way to introduce his restaurant to those who haven’t had the chance to visit. “Taste of Blount will be good exposure for us, especially since we are new,” Lerma said. “We are going to serve up fettucini alfredo, assorted sandwiches, rigatoni and some other things. We want to offer a variety.”
The menu at Il Sapore is extensive. Appetizers include calamari, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini, pizza cheese bread, chicken wings and more. A variety of salads are on the menu as well, including Caesar salad and a Greek Salad.
Main courses run from the calzones and stromboli to manicotti, cannelloni, tortellini, ravioli, spaghetti, chicken Parmesan, lasagna, shrimp linguini and shrimp alfredo. Chicken dishes are plentiful and so are the pizzas.
There is even a choice of hamburgers and other sandwiches for those who want American fare. Greek specialties round out the choices.
Lerma is part-owner of Il Sapore and also El Sazon, a popular Mexican restaurant located on Airport Highway. He said the names of the two restaurants translate into ‘art of flavoring food.’ “Like when your grandma cooks,” he explained.
Building a base
There are already loyal customers at Il Sapore, Lerma said, and he believes it has plenty to do with the fresh ingredients they use and the affordable prices. There are daily lunch specials, like all-you-can-eat pasta for only $6.99. Pizza is also featured on another all-you-can-eat special. If you like wings, come on Saturday, when they are all-you-can-eat for $7.99.
Little Italy was in this same location before Il Sapore opened up. Lerma said there aren’t that many Italian restaurants in the immediate area. Making it affordable for families was important, the general manager said.
Il Sapore is open every day, starting at 11 a.m. and can seat 120 patrons. Despite not being directly on the highway, Lerma said the location is a good one.
“There are lots of hotels nearby, the airport is here and so are a lot of businesses related to the airport,” he said.
Jeff Muir, communications director for Blount Partnership, said these ‘Taste of’ events are very popular in towns across the US, both large and small. He said Blount Countians will have the opportunity to sample seven restaurants that have never been in Taste of Blount before. Some old favorites, like Lemon Grass and Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise will be here once again.
Lerma can’t wait to introduce Il Sapore. He said menu items are fresh, not frozen and only quality ingredients are used. “Everything we make is good,” he said.
At the end of the night, winners will be declared in all the categories, based on votes by the public. Plaques are given out to those voted tops in appetizers, main course and the rest. These winners have bragging rights for an entire year, Muir said.
He said there are generally about 400 tickets sold to Taste of Blount. Each restaurant is asked to bring enough food to serve everyone. Taste of Blount will be held rain or shine, he pointed out. The Royal Hounds will provide entertainment.
The event is hosted by Blount Partnership and the City of Maryville.
There is still time to get tickets and take your place in line.