5th Annual Ybor Aficionado Days Stop 2: Bernini

I have always been curious about the food at Bernini in Ybor City. The restaurant is named after Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, of the late renaissance period (1598-1680) and founder of the Baroque art style. The exterior of the restaurant is beautiful in design and certainly makes me think Italy. During the Chevy Tapas Trail I was able to try two things from their menu. The item listed on the menu was “Sliced garlic marinated duck breast with chianti fig compote on a toasted crostini”. The duck was great, but what stole my attention was the crab and red pepper puffs with roasted corn mousseline that Bernini decided to add-on. Bernini was one of the first restaurants to open their doors and it was much appreciated as several restaurants on Chevy Tapas Trail were behind schedule and in a 3-hour trail you need all the time you can get. The attendants at the stand were helpful and explained the tapas to me. I left impressed.

The excellent cream puffs.

My plate with the duck tapa.

Bernini on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Bernini

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 1702 E 7th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 248-0099

Website: http://www.berniniofybor.com/

Go back to Yboy Aficionado Days Stop 1: Dog Bollock’s Pub

Timpano Italian Chophouse

Timpano Italian Chophouse is a restaurant and bar located across the street from CineBistro in Old Hyde Park. The exterior seems fancy and upscale and that wouldn’t be an incorrect way to describe Timpano. Inside the place is lit well, most of the people there are dressed up. My visit was during evening hours and the restaurant was booming with both a dinner crowd and a crowd surrounding their Frank Sinatra Bar.

There was live music playing the night I visited, the tunes were pleasant, but just a backdrop to the chatty conversations in the restaurant. The bartender that took care of us was friendly and quick to get us our drinks. He recommended me some drinks from their Martini menu and I decided to try their Flirtini, quite tasteful for someone like me who hates bitter drinks. There was a crowd of older women there, Tuesday nights are ladies night so they were probably just appeared to stop by while making their way around town.

My party and I ordered their BBQ Short Rib Flatbread Pizza and it was fantastic. The mushrooms and meat were great and the flatbread was appetizing and crunchy. What tasted like olive oil was used as a sauce on top and went well with the pizza. It was hard to not eat it all in a few bites. They have a couple other flatbreads that I would like to try in the future as well as their raw bar.

Overall, service and food at the Timpano Italian Chophouse was pretty good. Its a great place to sit at the bar and have a bite to eat and drink in an atmosphere that isn’t rowdy, but mature and reserved.

Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bar on Urbanspoon
Restaurant Name: Timpano Italian Chophouse
Cuisine: Italian
Address: 1610 W Swann Ave. Tampa, FL 33606
Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Phone Number: (813) 254-5870
Website: http://www.timpanochophouse.net/

Bella’s Italian Cafe

I had dinner at Bella’s Italian Cafe the other night after driving up Howard Ave. looking for a place to eat. After successfully finding parking (the lot was packed) right in the front (score!) I walked inside to put my name in to eat. The restaurant was packed, but it only took about five to ten minutes to get seated. I was seated in a booth and the waiter immediately brought me some water and some bruschetta and started helping with my order.

Bread & Butter

I decided to order Fettuccine Alfredo (I’m quite a traditionalist) and the waiter, Andrew F., quickly put my order in and brought me some warm bread and butter. This waiter had to be one of the best severs I have ever had in Tampa Bay and frequently checked on me throughout the night to make sure my meal was satisfactory. Within about 10 to 20 minutes I had my Fettuccine Alfredo arrive at my table.

The Alfredo sauce was just as good as the waiter said it would be, a unique taste…reminded me of a sauce I had in San Francisco once. It was thick and creamy just how I like it, not watered down like the Fettuccine I had at The Italian Kitchen on 301. It has to be one of the best pastas I have had in Tampa and the price was $10.99, more than Olive Garden but cheaper than eating at Carrabba’s. The pasta had a great texture and wasn’t thin like I have also had at some Italian restaurants recently. The Fettuccine Alfredo won my love and I would recommend it to any pasta lover.

There was plenty of pasta and I was feeling full before I knew it. After some debate I decided to go with dessert, a half-size of Tiramisu for $3.75. Andrew F. quickly took my Fettuccine Alfredo and boxed it up and put the date and item on the box with a smiley face. I felt like a kid, but that is quality service. Who doesn’t like to be treated great in a restaurant?

My Tiramisu was out within a few minutes. The waiter was kind enough to pour the chocolate over it. They give you the same amount of chocolate whether it’s a half or whole size of dessert so I was in sweet heaven once the chocolate was poured. The Tiramisu was different from what I have had, much richer in chocolate and sweeter. It was great and the half-size was just right with an entrée.

The waiter brought me the bill after my dessert, but didn’t pressure me to leave. He kept checking on me and re-filling my water I requested during my dessert and that is quality service. The service kept going even after the waiter finished his duty of delivering the food. Bella’s impressed me with its tasty Italian food and phenomenal customer service (props to Andrew F. for making my first visit a great one). I spent less than $20 and ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo, a soda, and a Tiramisu. While browsing the menu I came across their lunch menu which has many dishes for under $5! Have to have lunch at Bella’s someday.

Bella's Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Bella’s Italian Cafe

Cuisine: Italian

Address: 1413 S Howard Ave. Tampa, FL 33606

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone Number: (813) 254-3355

Website: http://www.bellasitaliancafe.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bellas-Italian-Cafe/47956797890

The Italian Kitchen Cafe

My family and I ate at the Italian Kitchen and Cafe last weekend. A small restaurant located on 301 in in the Sweet Bay Shopping Plaza in Riverview. Looking at the plaza its in you wouldn’t expect to find such a nice place, but once you walk into the restaurant you feel like you’ve entered a different world. They have used mirrors, painting, and decorations, such as columns to make the place feel fancy and elegant. The actual restaurant is not very big, but has plenty of space for dates and a special area for large parties as well. Prices were between Olive Garden and Carrabba pricing. My Fettuccine Alfredo was only $9.99. Other entrees ranged from $10-$20.

They were quick to seat us and to take our orders and within a few minutes brought our server brought us some bread.

The bread tasted great! What was better than that was the dipping sauce they gave with it that made me want it more and more throughout my dinner. A mixture of olive oil and seasonings.

My Mom ordered their Chicken Piccata ($14.99). I sampled it and it tasted a little too salty with a pungent taste. The texture of the chicken was made right, but the sauce tasted a little off. The pasta was average.

The entree that stole the show was my Step-Father’s Sinful Chicken Parmesan ($14.99).  A few bites of that and we all ended up wishing we ordered that instead. The marinara sauce and mozzarella tasted great and the chicken was crispy. The spaghetti pasta was the best out of the three types we had. In a future visit I think we would all choose the Sinful Chicken Parmesan as our meal choice.

My entree was a standard Fettuccine Alfredo ($9.99). I chose this entree because it is my favorite type of pasta and I wanted to try one of the classics here before venturing into other types of food. They accidentally made the wrong type of pasta at first, but quickly corrected their error when it came out covered in broccoli and mushrooms. The Fettuccine Alfredo was average at best. The pasta was a little too thin for my liking and almost felt like Linguine (my least favorite pasta type) and the Alfredo sauce was nowhere near creamy enough and it ended up tasted watery.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with my meal and would have preferred to have had this at Carrabba’s or the Olive Garden instead. Next time I would definitely order their Sinful Chicken Parmesan. Service was good and the waitress was very attentive to us. I would return again in the future.

Italian Kitchen & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: The Italian Kitchen Cafe

Cuisine: Italian

Address: 6915 US Highway 301 S Riverview, FL 33569

Neighborhood: Riverview

Phone Number: (813) 671-0953

Websitehttp://italiankitchencafe.com/

That’s Amore

Tonight my parents took me out to That’s Amore, an Italian restaurant on Harbour Island where a singer they used to follow at the Jazz club “The Fox” was spotted by a friend singing. Being the food critic guy that I am, I started researching the place before I got there and found many negative reviews around Urbanspoon and Yelp. We cautiously headed to the restaurant unsure of what to think about it.

When we got there we were greeted with a pretty spectacular view of Downtown Tampa and complimentary valet parking. Upon entering we heard the piano and found a few seats by the door. The place was pretty busy, but the entertainment had yet to really start. We ordered some drinks and we noticed that the waitress was swamped, her ability to keep up with our table and many others was quite impressive. I think the restaurant should probably look into getting her some help during these busy nights, she seems to be managing…but a little too slow and you could get one of those angry writers. After taking a look at the menu my parents ordered a Veggie Pizza and some wings.

My Step-Dad was pleased with his wings and we discovered that one of my family’s favorite bartenders was also working in this place. The pizza arrived and looked quite unique. I had a slice so I could add it to my pizza tour. The sauce was made from marinara and not from your regular pizza sauce, it gave it a fresh and powerful taste. The toppings were all on thin crust and it almost tasted like something you could whip up in the oven, but much better. All the toppings were pretty good and the pizza actually had a slight kick of spice to it as well, which my family loved, and although I am not much of fan of spicy food fan, I still liked it.

After the pizza I decided to give some of their dessert a shot. I ordered a Tiramisu ($8.95). It was decent, although a little too much liquor for my liking. It stayed true to the taste, but I think I prefer the Olive Garden when it comes to this dessert.

If I was just going to review this place based on food and service, I would probably say that it is a mediocre experience and that it has a nice view (like many others have said). However, once the main Jazz singer for the night Cleo Heart (visit her website) hit the stage it was clear that all these critics had missed something. Vibrant and full of energy, she brought the crowd to the place and really brought that restaurant to life along with her on key pianist. She brought the experience from okay, to I’ll be back for sure. Extremely friendly to any stranger in the crowd, she was witty and her songs all had pizzazz. To be able to kick back to her singing while having a meal or some drinks, now that is worth coming here. She performs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday nights so I would recommend visiting during these times.

A restaurant that advertises itself as a “romantic Italian restaurant” has made the right move to have her sing there. The view of downtown waterfront, some interesting food, a bar, and live music combined makes this place a pretty cool spot to be at in Tampa.

That's Amore on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: That’s Amore

Address: 700 Harbour Post Dr. Tampa, FL 33602

Phone Number: (813) 221-9889

Website: http://www.thatsamorerestaurant.com/

Gino’s Revisited

As I said before, my friends said we would return and a few weeks back we finally did return to Gino’s Restaurant & Bar. This time I came ready with my camera. The restaurant wasn’t as busy earlier in the day and we had the same server as last time, with great service still present. I ordered a Cheeseburger with Onion Rings ($9) and my friend ordered their Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken ($16), which also came with some bread and salad.

My cheeseburger was perfectly on par with all my other visits  to Gino’s (with Cheddar cheese oozing over it) and the Onion Rings were also just as good as always. Still maintaining that crunchy and juicy taste. The onions, lettuce, and tomato on the burger were also fresh and although I’m not a big fan of pickles I usually eat mine when I am dining at Gino’s.

The Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken had a nice and thick, creamy sauce and for my first time trying it I enjoyed it very much. The Grilled Chicken was also excellent, fitting  perfectly with this entree.

The bread that came with the Gnocchi was pretty good, a little too much garlic but still quite appetizing.

The salad that came with the Gnocchi Grilled Chicken…you really do get a full meal for the price.

My friend and I had nothing to do for the next few hours and were trying to kill time and the waiter eventually talked us into having their Bananas Foster over Edy’s Vanilla Ice Cream ($9)…we couldn’t resist after how good it was last time.

The whipped cream was excellent and the ice cream and bananas were fresh and perfectly ended this great visit to Gino’s. Once again we were greatly impressed with what Gino’s had to offer us. I am sure whenever a burger or Italian craving hits us again we will find ourselves again at Gino’s Restaurant and Bar.

Gino's Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Gino’s Restaurant and Bar

Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612

Phone #: (813) 933-1089

Websitehttp://www.ginosrestaurantbar.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/1849405

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-bar-and-restaurant-tampa

Food Adventures #002

This past week was a much slower week in food adventures. Most of what I ate was either home-cooked or some form of fast food (in fact I have been eating way too much fast food…such a waste of money and not to mention super bad for you). However, I did make a few stops worth mentioning.

Last Thursday I revisited one of my old neighborhoods out in Carrollwood with some friends. This trip was inspired by a trip to Mr. Dunderbak’s which a German friend of mine wanted to try out. After checking the place out and deciding maybe German just isn’t for me and trying some beer-battered onion rings at Mr. D’s made me remember how amazing onion rings taste at an old favorite of mine, we went to Gino’s Italian Restaurant on Armenia Avenue and Linebaugh.

I used to live right next door in an apartment complex called Deer Path so I was a regular at Gino’s. When I used to call them they already knew what I wanted just by hearing my voice, a tasty burger with onion rings and extra mayo on the side. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see the entire restaurant full, this place deserves a crowd. We were seated within a few minutes.

My friends ordered dessert and I ordered one of my favorite burgers, their Mother Earth burger, which comes loaded with mushrooms and cheddar cheese. While we waited for our food I told some stories of growing up by here, a quiet neighborhood with nothing but a golf course nearby. My friend’s dessert came and everyone demolished it…great taste. I had sold all my friends on this place just with that.

Then my burger arrived. The fresh look impressed my friend. The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side neatly cut. Just the smell was driving me crazy. When I took a bite into that burger it was like I had gone back in time because it tasted exactly the same as when I came here years ago. That is one hard thing to have in Tampa, where chefs are changing all the time and flavor rises and sinks all the time. The cheese had so much flavor and the mushrooms were fantastic. Even the onion rings were exactly the same, crunchy and juicy. Maybe the best onion rings I have had. My friends sampled them and enjoyed them as well. Everyone was wishing we had just gone here first after all my raving was backed up with evidence.

My only other food adventure was to The Wat Thai Temple on Palm River Road on Sunday. I arrived a little late in the day, but was still able to grab some Fried Bananas and those snacks are so delicious. They were hot and I burned my mouth, but I did not care because they were just that good. I will have to go earlier and cover more of their food in the future.

Restaurant/Venues mentions:

Gino’s Restaurant & Bar

Address: 10006 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, FL 33612

Phone #: (813) 933-1089

Website: http://www.ginosrestaurantbar.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/1849405

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-bar-and-restaurant-tampa

Gino's Bar on Urbanspoon

The Wat Thai Temple Market (Open Sundays from 10am-2pm)

Address: 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL 33619

Website: http://www.wattampainenglish.com/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/414273

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/wat-mongkolratanaram-of-florida-tampa-2