Pagelli’s Italiano (Wesley Chapel)

My parents have dined at Pagelli’s Italiano in the Wiregrass Mall for quite some time and mentioned to me I had to try the Tiramisu there. Being a huge Tiramisu fan, I did not miss the next chance I had to dine at Pagelli’s. The restaurant is spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating that is shaded and still cool despite the heat of a Florida summer. The setup is similar to many Italian chains and you may feel a sense of deja vu when you enter the restaurant (The Olive Garden came to mind).

I came for an early dinner and found that there was a special menu for early birds (4-6PM) with discounts on appetizers, entrees, and desserts. In addition, there was a bar menu that ran later and I decided to order the Calamari ($5-6) off of this menu. For my main course I ordered their Fettuccini Alfredo ($12) and for dessert I ordered the Tiramisu ($6). The waiter was quick to put our orders in and bring us drinks and bread.

The bread your average bread pieces. Not particularly soft or crunchy, but it worked well with the olive oil sauce provided. It wasn’t bad to snack on until the Calamari arrived a few minutes later.

The Calamari was crunchy and flavorful. The batter wasn’t too heavy. The two sauces provided went fine with it, but I enjoyed it more with just squeezed lemon on top. The Calamari normally costs $9 for dinner so this was quite a saving.

The Fettuccini Alfredo was one of the best parts of the meal. The pasta was well-cooked and the pieces long with plenty of Alfredo sauce to enjoy it with. It wasn’t quite as cheesy as the Fettuccine at Bella’s, but still tasted fresh. The pasta was much lighter than I was initially expecting, but still managed to nearly fill me up. I saved some of it for lunch the next day and it reheated well.

Finally, it was time for dessert and out came the Tiramisu. It has to be one of the most chocolate-coated desserts I have had in some time. While Bella’s pours it on top of the Tiramisu at your table, this dessert comes pre-coated. The inside of the Tiramisu is airy and sweet as a Tiramisu should be. The coffee flavoring is powerful and perhaps the only part that I didn’t enjoy in this dessert was the strong rum taste. If you’re not really much of a rum drinker, you may not like this rum-like aftertaste. Nevertheless, the dessert is still a quality tasting and well worth the $6 price. For now my favorite Tiramisu continues to belong to Hella’s Bakery in Tarpon Springs.

Overall, dining at Pagelli’s Italiano was a pleasant experience. The food was excellent and the service on point. One interesting thing I noticed was the sounds of an opera Italian singer over a speaker system. I originally thought this was a recording (which occurs in many restaurants) and was shocked to find out that the voice I heard was actually being projected from inside the restaurant and I witnessed the opera singer with a strong and powerful voice on my way to the restroom. Live music is always a plus. I will be back to Pagelli’s Italiano in the future for more tasty Italian dishes.

Pagelli's Italiano on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Pagelli’s Italiano

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: Wesley Chapel

Address: 2001 Piazza Ave Ste 100 Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Phone Number: (813) 991-1414

Website: http://tampa.pagellis.com

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Yamato Japanese Steakhouse

My friend recently treated me to dinner at Yamato Japanese Steakhouse in the Wiregrass Mall. I have been to their bar before (more on that soon), but have never had their Teppanyaki before. We arrived pretty late during a weeknight so the place wasn’t too busy. There was one other group sitting with us who were friendly. I’ve never sat with another party during a visit to a Japanese steakhouse so I thought it might be awkward, but we actually had a good time conversing with the other party at the table.

My friend went ahead and ordered my favorite drink I regularly have at this restaurant for me. It’s called a Blue Samurai and it tastes like pineapple juice, but it packs quite a punch. The taste is smooth and it’s easy to slurp it down (though the drink will hit you fast so beware). Japanese steakhouses always have these innovative tasty mixed drinks (it’s one of my favorite things about them) and Yamato is no different. Although I was missing the usual umbrella Benihana gives.

We were given a free sushi roll on the house. Shrimp on the outside and imitation crab with crunchy breading on the inside and a little mayo on top. The shrimp tasted fresh, normally I would prefer fried shrimp, however the shrimp delivered a solid taste and the crab and crunchy breading inside made it even better. A nice start to our meal, indeed. I decided to order their Steak and Calamari ($17) from their Teppanyaki menu and we also ordered some sushi and sashimi.

The soup came out first. The soup had an onion taste to it, but wasn’t powdery. It tasted good, but I couldn’t detect what about it made it taste good. It wasn’t heavy (like miso soup sometimes is) and still left plenty of room for the feast we were about to have.

The ginger salad or house salad left plenty to be desired. I will agree with other critics that the sauce has too much liquid. A ginger salad is better when the ginger is freshly added on such as how it is made at Sushi Ninja in Riverview.

This had to be the most interesting thing we ate that night. Bacon Scallions. It doesn’t sound quite appetizing, but it was pretty tasty. I continue to be shocked by all the wonderful ways bacon can be consumed. Chocolate Sunday’s chocolate and bacon is still my favorite.

Our Teppanyaki chef was attentive to our group and made our meal in a timely manner. He did a few tricks, such as the spinning egg and also the smoking onion volcano. There was also a big flame moment, which reminded me of Arigato Steakhouse (which used to be on North Dale Mabry). I’d say Kobe Ichiban in Brandon is probably my best experience with an entertaining and humorous chef, but Yamato was not far behind. It far outdid my experience last summer at Benihana in Orlando where the chef couldn’t do barely any moves and left my party feeling completely disappointed.

A very popular Teppanyaki chef trick. The smoking onion volcano.

The best part of our meal was interestingly enough the sashimi. I don’t expect sushi or sashimi to be high-quality in a Japanese steakhouse and our decision to order was merely an attempt to sample what they had. We ordered a Sashimi Platter and also Mackerel Nigiri. Mackerel has to be one of the fish I am most picky about. Either it is fantastic or downright disgusting. The mackerel at Yamato was amazing. I could have ten or twenty of them. All the sashimi was fresh and the salmon hit my taste buds in all the right places. Each bite of sashimi was savory and I almost forgot to pay attention to the teppanyaki as I bathed in the fish.

We also had some a California Roll and Salmon Roll. The California Roll was excellent, the crab was great and there was plenty of avocado and masago. The masago tasted very fresh and I had  to snap a photo of it to share with my readers. I was really impressed with how well the California Roll was made, it was clear the chef took some time to make it right. The Salmon Roll was just as great as the salmon sashimi, though I’d probably add some avocado to it next time.

The rice was appetizing and full of flavor. I am normally not too much of a rice consumer, but this rice tasted great and I finished most of it before I even was served my steak or calamari. I was really surprised with the amount of flavor in Yamato’s teppanyaki food. In my prior experiences to Japanese steakhouses the food has been regrettably bland and I constantly need to drench my food in the sauces provided to make my food have flavor, but Yamato actually had a natural flavor in their food. The steak, calamari, noodles, vegetables, and rice were all enjoyable and dipping them in sauce was less of a chore to make it taste good, but just something I sporadically did to test the difference tastes I could make with the food. It was this attention to flavor that truly made me enjoy Yamato as a Japanese steakhouse and make it a place that I would recommend others try as well.

Yamato Japanese Steak House on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Yamato Japanese Steakhouse

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 28211 Paseo Drive, Suite 100 Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Neighborhood: New Tampa

Phone Number: (813) 907-8701