The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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We were in St Pete with friends for a show at the Mahaffey Theater and ate dinner at Gratzzi Italian Grille.  Luckily, we had made reservations because they were quite busy for a Wednesday evening at 5:30pm.  They started us out with some bread and herb infused oil, then soup or salad included in the meal.

The bread was ok; the crust a little too crunchy for my taste, but the infused oil had some nice flavors.  The salad had a variety of different things in it.  Both the Pasta e Fagioli and Italian Wedding soups looked very similar to each other, just with a few different ingredients.

Our friends ordered the Chicken Parmigiana and the Pappardelle Giuliana

The chicken parm was big enough for leftovers (we’ll get to that later) and the pasta dish had scallops in a roasted red pepper sauce.  They both said the food was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Loren ordered the cedar planked salmon and I ordered the chicken marsala with a side of Pappardelle Alfredo.

The salmon was nicely cooked and topped with blue crab.  Loren liked it.  The chicken marsala was tender and the sauce was good, but I’ve had more flavorful at other Italian restaurants.  The alfredo pasta was tasty, but not worth what I ended up paying for it.  (we’ll get to that later).  For dessert, we got the Lemoncello cake and our friends got the gelato.

The cake was really good.  Very strong, tart lemon flavor to it. Now, for those things we were going to get to later.  We were busy talking and not really paying attention as we paid the bills and left the restaurant.  Come to find out, they charged me the full entree price for the side of alfredo pasta that I ordered.  The waitress also didn’t bring the leftovers back to the table that my friend had from her dinner.  Drinks weren’t always filled quickly enough and Loren’s pretty sure his glass of tea was refilled with diet soda.  Overall, the food was ok, but nothing that would make us feel the need to return. And the mistakes with the check and leftovers definitely would keep us from recommending to others.  Our half of the bill was $77, $10 more than it should have been.

Gratzzi Italian Grille
211 2nd Street S
St Petersburg, FL
727-623-9037

Gratzzi Italian Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food3/5
Service2/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value2/5
2.6/5

Tonight we went over to La Trattoria Da Gaetano in Dunedin for dinner.  This is one of those places that makes you feel like you’ve walked into an Italian Grandma’s kitchen.  From the pictures on the walls to the red & white checkerboard tables, it just has old world Italy written all over it.  If you’ve never been here, it’s a little odd in that they don’t have a menu.  First, they drop off bread at the table and then for the appetizers, they bring over what’s available that day.  Tonight there were artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, and cheese stuffed rollatini.  We got a couple of mushrooms and split the rollatini so we’d have room for our entrees.

Everything’s made fresh that day.  I could have eaten a few of each and not thought twice about it.  Once you finished up your appetizers, they come around with a cart of proteins and list off all of the different ways they can cook them.  They’ll pretty much accommodate whatever you want.  Surf or turf, they have ways to cook all of it.  I come here specifically for the amaretto cream sauce with crab and pasta.

It’s all about the sauce for me.  It has one of those flavors that makes my tastebuds sing.  The sauce is a bit on the sweet side and goes perfectly with crab and pasta.  I all but lick the bowl.  Loren went for a NY strip steak with garlic and a side of spaghetti.

He said the steak was tender and there was plenty of garlic on top.  It’s a simple dish, done right.  We ordered the ricotta cheesecake for dessert.

It’s not a smooth and creamy cheesecake and honestly, not one of my favorites.  It’s dense and just doesn’t have the right mouth-feel to me.  Otherwise, though, it was an enjoyable meal.  Total bill with a drink was $69.

La Trattoria Da Gaetano
2152 Main St
Dunedin, FL
(727) 733-5664

La Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.7/5
  • 0 Comments
  • Filed under: Dunedin, Italian
  • We decided to try Casa Cosenza in Oldsmar for dinner tonight.  It was one of those experiences where if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry.  Everything from the food to the service was a joke.  When we arrived there was only one other table of guests and yet we were directed to either a small table in the corner behind them or another small table with the sun shining in.  Luckily, the sun was setting otherwise it would have been impossible to sit there.  Seriously folks, invest in some window treatments.

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    Our waitress was rather clueless.  It was like she didn’t retain anything you said or that she had already said from one moment to the next.  She brought out a salami taster and some bread.

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    Loren thought it was ok.  It had salami, cheese, bread, and a basil leaf plus a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  I found it to be too salty and the bread it was on was on the stale side.  As for the bread basket, the bread sticks were inedible.  Solid as a rock.  The bread itself was thick and cold.  I just believe if you’re going to tout that you make homemade bread, that it should be served warm.  Our waitress asked twice if we wanted olive oil & balsamic vinegar to go with it.  Loren said just a little bit of garlic would have made it a better dipping sauce.

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    When the waitress came back to take our order, her cell phone rang.  Granted she didn’t pick it up, but why would you have it on you when you’re working??  We ordered the caprese calda su fogliedi zucchine fritte as an appetizer.  The menu described it as mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes in puff pastry with fried zucchini.

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    We both laughed when it came to the table.  The “puff” pastry was hard as a rock.  There was no semblance of puff there at all.  There were 4 tiny pieces of grilled zucchini on the side and this thing cost $12.  The waitress came back and asked us how it was and I told her it was rock hard.  She seemed perplexed at that point.  I think we both knew this was not going to go well.

    For his entree, Loren ordered the fish of the day which was black grouper.  It was cooked in a paper bag with tomatoes, capers, and olives.  When he went to order it, she asked if he wanted roasted potatoes or mashed which were actually a puree.  He said the mashed, but as you can see from the photo, it was served with both.

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    He actually liked the fish.  He said it was cooked well and the olives and capers added a nice flavor.  The puree of potato had a really odd texture.  It was overmixed and gluey.   I decided to try the lasagne.

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    I don’t know where to begin.  When I think of lasagne, I think layers.  You know, sheets of pasta with cheese and meat sauce.  This was a plate of meat sauce with a few sparse pieces of pasta that pretty much dissolved in your mouth.  I had no words.  And the best part?  It tasted like Chef Boyardee.  I kid you not.  It was a very familiar flavor from childhood and Loren tasted it and thought the same thing.  The waitress came by and asked how it was and I told her it was awful.  It was a plate of meat sauce.  She asked if I wanted some pasta instead.  I said sure and she said she’d take the lasagne off the bill.  Again, call me crazy, but if a customer sends back a dish uneaten and then you offer to bring out something else, would you expect to be charged for the second dish?

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    I watched Loren finish his meal since it seems to take a really long time to put together a plate of pasta.  I’m an old school Italian and I like tomato sauce that’s been cooked for a long time to remove the acidity of the tomatoes.  This just had that raw tomato taste and the pasta wasn’t cooked enough.  There’s al dente and then there’s this. There were way too many pieces stuck together and barely cooked at all.  And yes, I left most of it uneaten and we got charged for it.

    Here’s the kicker.  After complaining about the appetizer, sending my entree back, and leaving the majority of its replacement on the plate, the waitress came up to the table and asked if everything was good.  Seriously??!  I was speechless.  Needless to say, this was a wasted $58 and we will never be back again.

    Casa Cosenza
    3705 Tampa Rd, Ste 6
    Oldsmar, FL
    813-925-9765

    Casa Cosenza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Food1/5
    Service1/5
    Atmosphere1/5
    Value1/5
    1.0/5
  • 0 Comments
  • Filed under: Italian, Oldsmar
  • Italian Food


    We timed our dinner just right at Johnny’s Italian in Clearwater.  This place gets busy on the weekends but we were able to get in & get a table without a wait.  Loren started off with a salad and I went for the New England clam chowder, but let’s face it, we come here for the fresh baked Johnny bread.

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    That bread.  It’s warm and soft and you just don’t care that you’re going to smell like garlic for the rest of the night because that dipping oil is just so delicious.  The clam chowder was creamy, thick and rich and hit the spot.  We decided to try the crab cakes tonight.

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    They were quite good.  Very little filler, just lots of crab.  The sauce on the plate had a bit of a zing to it.  Loren tried the chicken Briscante for his entree.

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    The chicken was very tender and the pasta cooked perfectly.  It had a light cream sauce that was quite tasty.  I went for my favorite dish on the menu, the chicken marsala with fettucine alfredo.

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    I had lots of leftovers tonight.  The chicken was tender and the alfredo sauce is so creamy and delicious.  And since I took half of my entree home, we couldn’t pass up a slice of the chocolate dream cake.

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    This cake is so rich and chocolatety.  The frosting is a fudgey ganache and the cake is quite moist.  So good.  Total bill with a drink was $47.

    Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
    2907 SR 590 #1
    Clearwater, FL
    727-797-2940

    Click to add a blog post for Johnny's Italian on Zomato

     

    Food4/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.4/5

    Loren was in the mood for Italian food tonight, so we headed over to Johnny’s in Clearwater.  We just beat the dinner crowd and didn’t have to wait for a table.  There’ s no passing on the bread here.  It’s so yummy.

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    The dipping oil has enough garlic in it to ward off a gang of vampires.  Tasty, but really strong.  While Loren went for the salad, I opted for the New England clam chowder.

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    The chowder was thick and creamy and had a good flavor.  We hadn’t completely finished when our calamari arrived.

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    Some pieces were a bit chewier than others, but overall it was good.  The tomato sauce served with it had a little bit of a kick.  Our entrees arrived before we had finished the calamari.  It seems they were in a hurry to turn over tables.   Loren tried the linguine with red clam sauce.

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    He said the clams were a little chewy, but the dish was flavorful.  I thought it had a really strong aroma.  It was also way more than he could eat in one sitting.  I went for the chicken marsala with fettucine alfredo on the side.

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    I would have liked the chicken to have been more tender, but the marsala sauce was tasty.  I love their fettucine alfredo when it’s done right.  I’ve had mixed experiences here where the sauce breaks and you’re left with a pool of oil on the plate, but tonight’s pasta was spot on.  I also ended up with leftovers.

    We decided to try something different for dessert and ordered the cookies and cream ice cream cake.

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    When it arrived, it was nothing like I expected.  When I think of ice cream cake, but mind goes back to those rolled ice cream cakes.  This was just ice cream with a fudge layer on top.  There wasn’t any cake to speak of.  The ice cream was good, but it’s probably not something we’d order again.  Total bill with a drink was $44.

    Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
    2907 SR 590 #1
    Clearwater, FL
    727-797-2940

    Click to add a blog post for Johnny's Italian on Zomato

    Food3/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.0/5