Johnny’s Italian Restaurant on a Friday night is a very crowded place. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. Salads and bread started off the meal while we waited for our calamari.
The Johnny bread is one of the best things about this restaurant. The oil & garlic dipping sauce will have you warding off vampires for a week. The bread is just perfect and we ended up getting a second loaf. It’s hard to resist. Next up, calamari.
It was very tender and had a nice crunch. The dipping sauce that came with it was rather spicy with lots of red pepper flakes. I was feeling the heat for a while. Loren ordered the Tuscan Steak with Portabella Sauce.
The interesting thing was that he actually tried to order something else, but the waitress talked him out of it. I can’t remember what the other item was, but she said it didn’t have a lot of flavor and that he’d enjoy this one more. And he did. I went for the chicken marsala with a side of fettucine alfredo.
The chicken was tender and the marsala sauce had a really nice flavor to it. When they get their alfredo sauce right, it’s really good here. Tonight was one of those nights. I could have eaten an entire bowl of just that. I felt the need for chocolate tonight so we ordered the chocolate cake.
This was an incredibly rich and chocolately cake. It had thick ganache layers and just melted in your mouth. Perfect ending to a very good meal. Total bill with a drink was $45.75.
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
2907 SR 590 #1
Always on the lookout for places we haven’t visited yet, we ended up at Pensare Italian Bistro in Dunedin for dinner tonight. The place was packed and really loud. We were seated in this little alcove and I felt like the sound just reverberated off the walls. Our waiter came over and explained the specials and brought bread and oil to the table.
The bread was warm and crusty and the dipping oil was very flavorful. We were optimistic about the rest of the meal only to be quickly disappointed when our appetizer arrived.
It was a fried platter of calamari, shrimp and zucchini. The calamari was thin and like rubber. The breading had no flavor whatsoever. The shrimp were overcooked and the zucchini was burnt. If our waiter had actually come back to the table in a reasonable amount of time, I would have sent it back. Salads came with our meal and we both got the mixed greens.
Loren likes mixed green salads, I’m not a fan. They also brought oil & vinegar to the table & you can have the waiter dress the salad or you can do it yourself. Eventually, our entrees came out. At this point, I felt like we had been there for quite a while. Loren ordered the Salmone Asparagi which was salmon in a lemon buerre-blanc sauce and asparagus.
He said it was pretty good. I found the sauce to be a bit too tart and sour for my tastes. I went for the pappardelle bolognese.
This was not a good dish. The pasta was undercooked and the sauce was flavorless. It was just very uninspiring. Our waiter disappeared at this point, I think he had tables out on the patio, so we didn’t see much more of him. My expectations were so low at this point that I didn’t even bother with dessert. We won’t be back. Total bill was $59 with a drink.
Pensare Italian Bistro
799 Highland Ave
Loren took me out to my favorite little Italian restaurant tonight for our anniversary. I don’t know why we don’t go to La Trattoria more often, I really do love the food. If you’ve never been, it’s quite the experience. There’s no menu and the owner is this jovial Italian man who just makes you feel like you’ve walked into his home for dinner. He’ll be wandering around the restaurant singing and it’s just a hoot. There’s nothing fancy about this place, but the food is excellent. We started off with some bread, little pizza pieces, and salad.
The little pizza pieces are almost identical in flavor to what my Italian grandmother used to make. The dipping oil for the bread has huge chunks of garlic in it and the salad is just lightly dressed with oil & vinegar. First off, you get shown the appetizers of the day. Tonight there were artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, and stuffed eggplant. Loren went for a mushroom and I tried the eggplant.
Both were tasty. I liked the tomato sauce on mine. Once you’re done with the appetizers, the owner wheels out the cart o’ seafood and meats and tells you all the different ways he can prepare it for you. I have a favorite dish here, the pasta with crab in a pink amaretto sauce. I just can’t make myself order anything else. You can get chicken, pork, veal, steaks, fish, pasta, ravioli and who knows what else in a variety of preparations. Loren ordered the grouper in a piccata sauce with artichokes and sundried tomatoes.
He said it was very tasty. My pasta with crab was just divine.
There are huge chunks of crab in this dish. Loren says the sauce tastes like dessert because it’s so sweet. I just love it. And even though we were both stuffed, I couldn’t resist some ricotta cheesecake.
If you’ve never had ricotta cheesecake, it’s more cakelike in texture and not as creamy as a NY cheesecake. It’s somewhat dense with a little lemon flavor to it. Overall, it was an excellent meal. Total bill with a drink was $60.
2152 Main St
We hadn’t been back to Dominic’s Italian Grille in a while because our last visit left something to be desired. Unfortunately, tonight’s experience wasn’t much better. The restaurant was pretty crowded and we ended up at a table right in the middle of the room. Loren’s dinner came with a salad & we started off with some Arancini.
The menu said the rice balls were stuffed with crab, but neither of us could find any. They were very dense and really needed some seasoning. Loren ordered one of the specials tonight, the braised short ribs.
It tasted like pot roast. He liked it, but the green beans were inedible. I ordered the chicken marsala.
The chicken was overcooked and not tender enough for me. The sauce was ok, but didn’t really pop. Again, I think it was a lack of seasoning. I like the pasta souffle that came with it. Service was rough all the way around. Our waitress disappeared for a while, someone took Loren’s drink and we weren’t sure if they were going to bring it back, we had another lady clear some plates, only to stack them in an unstable pile with one ending up in pieces on the floor. Total bill with a drink was $35.
Dominic’s Italian Grille
3163 Curlew Road
We wandered around Universal Studios all morning and then decided to get lunch out on City Walk. We didn’t realize so many of the restaurants didn’t open until late afternoon. We finally ended up out on the patio at Pastamore. The waitress brought bread & dipping oil to the table first.
The bread was wonderful. Soft and warm and very tasty. The dipping oil, on the other hand was served in a rather large bowl and didn’t have any herbs in it. It was just odd. We started off with the fried calamari.
I felt the portion size was small for a $9 appetizer, but I had to remember we were in a theme park. Realistically, though, it was enough to share without totally spoiling our appetites for our entrees. The calamari was cooked well and had a nice crunchy exterior without being too chewy on the inside. The balsamic glaze and garlic aioli added a nice flavor, but the marinara sauce was pretty bland. Loren got the salmon salad.
He said the salmon was cooked perfectly and he enjoyed the salad. He likes olives and there were plenty in the salad. I went for the chicken marsala.
This was the lunch half portion, though to be honest, I didn’t realize that’s what I was ordering. Again, I had to remember theme park prices. The chicken was very tender and the pasta was just the right tenderness. The dish could have used a bit more of the marsala sauce, but overall, it was pretty tasty. I was also craving chocolate, so we settled on the chocolate sabayon for dessert.
It was a pretty little plate with a very tasty raspberry sauce. It was a light and fluffy sort of dessert, just what I was craving. Total bill with a drink was $47.
6000 Universal Blvd
We’d already eaten at two new places for us this weekend, so I decided to try for a third. We ate dinner at La Bella Eva over in Clearwater. It’s a small Italian pizza place in strip mall on Belcher. It was nice and toasty inside which was perfect on this rather chilly evening. We decided to try the potato soup.
My first bite was very flavorful, but cold. We had to send it back to the kitchen to get heated up. After that, though, things went much better. The soup was really good. Thick & rich with a wonderful flavor. Loren kept trying to slide it closer to his side of the table. The bread was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. You know it’s good when Loren reaches for more before I get a chance to. We also got some calamari.
The calamari was a little chewy and needed some salt, but otherwise pretty good. You can get a medium or spicy sauce to go with it and we chose the medium. It wasn’t really spicy, but definitely had some red pepper in it. At this point, we both realized we had already ordered too much food, and then the entrees came. Loren got the linguine with meatballs.
He liked it. It was a rich sauce. I though it tasted like there was wine in it that hadn’t been fully cooked off. I got the eggplant rollatini.
It was like lava when it came to the table. The eggplant was cooked very well. It still had some texture to it and the cheese and sauce were tasty. Too many places overcook the eggplant to mush, but this was a really good dish. We both had leftovers and decided to split a Manhattan truffle for dessert.
Vanilla and chocolate ice cream covering a cherry & almond center and completely enrobed in dark chocolate. It was delicious. They had several different varieties of these truffles and I think we may have to go back just to try some of the other ones. Total bill with a drink was $38.
La Bella Eva
1469 S. Belcher Rd
I was in the mood for a sub for lunch, so we drove over to Largo to Cesarina Deli & Bakery. They have a big variety of cold and hot subs along with some Italian dishes. I went for the California cheese steak.
I couldn’t even begin to pick it up & eat it until I had taken half of the meat off. There was so much of it and it was really flavorful and delicious. It had a wonderful seasoning to it and the bread was fresh and tasty. I was only able to eat half of it. Loren went for the muffalata.
He was only able to eat half of his too. He said the bread was crusted in some really tasty herbs, the deli meat was fresh and the olive spread was tasty too. Overall, some really yummy sandwiches. With a couple of drinks, the total bill was $19. I also ended up spending about $30 in the deli on some meats, olives, a really delicious cannoli, and some other baked goods. I had to buy some of this cake just so I could photograph it.
Definitely check this place out if you’re in the area. The subs are delicious.
Cesarina Deli & Bakery
2575 East Bay Dr, Ste 1
This is the third time we’ve eaten at Bascetti’s in Dunedin and after tonight, I’m not sure that we’ll be returning anytime soon. The restaurant does some things very well, but is severely lacking in others. My biggest complaint tonight was the service. For the most part, it was just non-existent. We ordered an appetizer and I assumed the waitress would bring out bread while we waited for it. No such luck. We just sat there for quite a long time waiting on the sausage and crab cake appetizer to arrive.
All the photos are pretty bad because it was so dark at our table. This dish was pretty tasty. Lots of crab and just a hint of sausage flavor. I probably wouldn’t have guessed that there was sausage in it because it was very mild. The sauce with it was sort of a tangy salad dressing. Once we had completely finished the appetizer, we sat and waited some more until our waitress brought out the bread.
The dipping sauce is usually the best part of the bread here, however, tonight, it was ice cold. It must have come straight out of the fridge and was not at all what I was expecting when I took my first bite. It was very disappointing and I would have asked the waitress to heat it up if we had seen her again before we had finished eating the bread. Once we were done with it, she brought out my chicken soup and Loren’s salad.
They really need to get smaller bowls or put more soup in them. The presentation of the soup just immediately made you think they were being skimpy with it. It had a nice flavor, but I found the chicken pieces to be overcooked and sort of dry/grainy tasting. Loren didn’t mind it as much as I did. Usually, I complain that restaurants are too quick to bring out the next course, but that was definitely not an issue here tonight. Service was painfully slow. At one point, our waitress said she was going to refill drinks and she didn’t return for at least 15 minutes. Eventually our entrees came out. Loren ordered the chicken piccata.
He really enjoyed this dish. The sauce was light and tasty, the pasta cooked well and the chicken was tender. He was all mmm, mmm, mmm, while I was less than enthused by my Vodka Princess pasta dish.
This had overcooked rubbery shrimp and minuscule pieces of crab meat in it. I had to really search to actually find any pieces of crab. The sauce just wasn’t anything special and in my mind, the dish wasn’t worth $18. It wasn’t smooth and creamy enough for me. When the waitress came by and asked how it was, I was less than complimentary about the dish and she went back and told the kitchen. They offered a free dessert so we tried the chocolate fig torte.
This was really tasty. I probably wouldn’t have guessed that there was fig in it, though every so often you did get some seeds. It was chocolatety without being overwhelmingly rich. For me, this was the best part of the meal. I just felt like we spent way too much time sitting around waiting tonight. Like I said, they do some things very well, but consistency and attention to the small details just seems lacking. There’s just no reason we should have been in there for over 2 hours. Total bill with a drink was $49.
1568 Main Street
We had a AAA coupon for 25% off at Olive Garden that expired today, so we headed over there for a late lunch. We weren’t sure how busy they were going to be on Christmas Eve, but when we got there at 1pm, we didn’t have to wait for a table. We started off with soup, salad and breadsticks.
I think we could have stopped right here and been very full and very contented. The breadsticks were fresh and soft and both the salad and soup were yummy. I like the pasta fagioli soup here. It has a nice blend of flavors and textures. For some reason, we felt the need to order an appetizer.
Calamari & stuffed mushrooms… oh so good! They prepare a really tender calamari here. The mushrooms were also flavorful and filling. As if this wasn’t enough food, we ordered entrees as well. Loren got the braised beef tortelloni.
It was definitely more tortelloni than beef, but he said it was very good. I ordered the fettucine alfredo.
This is my favorite dish here, though it could have used a little more sauce on it. It’s very creamy and the noodles are cooked perfectly. There’s a reason we don’t come here very often; we eat too much. We both took home some leftovers. For a chain restaurant, they really do prepare the food very well. After the coupon, the total bill was $26.
29461 Us-19 N
We went to a holiday dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Westshore Plaza with about a dozen people. The only reservation they could get was at 4:30pm, but we didn’t get out of there until around 8:30pm. I didn’t take any photos during the meal, but still wanted to comment on the food.
The bread on the table was soft and chewy and very good. We also got the fried calamari, fried zucchini, stuffed mushrooms and mussels for appetizers. I didn’t try the mussels, but the people who did seemed to really enjoy them. The zucchini was very good. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I’d definitely order it again. Both the stuffed mushrooms and calamari were good too. I think everyone at the table was full before our entrees came out.
Loren got the salmon oscar and really liked it. The salmon was cooked well and the crab and sauce on top had some wonderful flavors. I ordered the mushroom ravioli with braised veal in a marsala cream sauce. It was delicious. From the first bite to the last, the textures and flavors just danced in my mouth. It was yummy. Everyone at the table seemed to really enjoy the food. We also got dessert which I ended up taking over half of it home because it was huge.
This is what was left after Loren & I ate some and we gave some to another person at the table. It was a huge piece of chocolate cake with a Sambuca mousse. It was moist and rich and very chocolatety; however, I probably wouldn’t order it again. I didn’t know what Sambuca was before I ordered it (an anise flavored liqueur), but it seems that both Loren & I had the same reaction to it. It numbed the roof of my mouth and my tongue. It was a very odd feeling.
There were a few issues with the evening. There was one entree that didn’t come out until almost everyone was halfway through eating. I guess it got overcooked in the kitchen, so they had to prepare a new one. The restaurant is very loud and parking is a small nightmare, but granted this was the Friday before Christmas. I don’t know what the final bill was, but it wasn’t cheap. The prices are a bit on the high side, but the food was really good. We don’t get over to that part of Tampa very often, but we’d definitely eat at Maggiano’s again.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
203 Westshore Plz
Another quiet dinner tonight, this time at Bascetti’s in Dunedin. The restaurant was pretty empty when we got there around 5:45pm. We liked the calamari the last time we were here, so had to get it again.
The calamari was very tender and flavorful, though some of the pieces were stuck together and didn’t get quite as crispy on the outside as I would have liked. It’s a really tasty dish though, especially with the dipping sauce. Next up were the salads and bread.
The last time we were here, neither of us were too keen on the housemade salad dressing. It was better this time, but I’d still prefer a nice ranch dressing. The bread was warm and delicious. The dipping sauce is addictive. Loren decided to try the catch of the day which was mahi.
He said it was good, though he didn’t like all of the veggies that came with it. I ordered the bolognese pappardelle.
This dish was quite unexpected. Any other places where I’ve ordered the bolognese, it’s been a tomato based sauce. This was a very thin, white sauce. It almost reminded me of a stroganoff. The meat tasted like sausage and the pasta was homemade and cooked perfectly. I just have mixed feelings about the dish. It was ok, but I don’t think I’d order it again. It just lacked depth of flavor. Total bill with a drink was $49.
1568 Main Street
We left Las Vegas this morning on our way to the mountains in Utah. We stopped in St George for lunch and ate at Cappelettis Italian Restaurant. We started off with the spinach artichoke dip.
This was very fresh and tasty. The chips were warm and the dip just had a wonderful flavor and texture. There was also a lot of it which made it difficult to finish our entrees. Loren ordered the half sandwich and soup.
He got the French onion soup and chicken salad sandwich. I really liked the sandwich. Besides the chicken, it had grapes, apples, dried cranberries, and lettuce. The bread was thick and soft an overall just very tasty. I ordered the fettucine alfredo.
Although it had way too much cheese sprinkled on top, the rest of it was creamy and delicious. No separating of the sauce here which was a wonderful thing. There was way too much of it for me to finish though. And yet, I still managed to save room for dessert.
I don’t remember what this was called, just that it was amazingly chocolatety. Thick and rich with some different textural layers in it. Something I’d most definitely order again. Yum! Total bill with a drink was $36.
36 E Tabernacle
Saint George, UT
Tonight’s dinner was at Sirio Ristorante with some co-workers. This was probably the most upscale restaurant I ate at while in Vegas. The food was excellent, but the prices were pretty outrageous.
We started off with an antipasti platter and some bread.
There were several different types of bread and they were all very good. I didn’t eat much off of the antipasti platter. I found the flavors on both the cheeses and meats to be too harsh for my tastes. The guys at the table really enjoyed it though.
I ordered the Cappellacci, a cheese & spinach stuffed pasta.
It was very thick and dense, but overall had some good flavors. Other dishes ordered around the table were the Lobster Risotto, a seafood pasta, and a pork three ways dish.
Everyone seemed very happy with their meals. I tasted the lobster risotto and it was good, but had a really strong flavor to it. I don’t think I’d have been able to eat an entire bowl of it. I didn’t see the final total on the check, but it definitely wasn’t cheap.
3730 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
We decided to give Bella Kouzina another try, but unfortunately, this visit wasn’t any better than the last. It started with the fried calamari.
We order calamari almost every place that has it on the menu, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of how it should taste. This was just beyond chewy and had no flavor whatsoever. When the waitress stopped by and asked how it was, I told her it was chewy. She looked at me and said, “But, it’s calamari.” I’m guessing she’s just never had calamari cooked the right way before. She took it back to the kitchen and we heard someone say “drop another order of calamari”. Since nothing else was said as to cooking it differently, we ended up sending the second batch back as well & they took it off our check. The waitress said they must have just gotten a bad shipment. Personally, we both thought they just didn’t have the oil at the right temperature, so it was getting overcooked. But, on to the soups.
Loren got the clam chowder and I got the pasta fagioli. His had a decent flavor, but it wasn’t thick and creamy. My first bite tasted like baked beans and each subsequent bite had sort of a metallic taste when it hit my tongue. Loren said he could taste what I was tasting as well. The bread, however, was the highlight of the meal for me.
Loren ordered the salmon Cleopatra which had artichokes, celery and mushrooms in a white wine lemon sauce.
He said it was ok. At first, he didn’t like the sauce on it. I tasted it and thought it just tasted like olive oil with a little bit of lemon in it. His dish also came with pasta. He said it was overcooked and the sauce wasn’t great. I decided to try the pastitsio.
Again, this is a dish I order at most Greek restaurants, so I expect certain flavors. This one didn’t deliver. Instead of being cooked as one large dish and portioned out, it looks like an individual serving was made. The pasta wasn’t drained properly, so there was water in the bottom of the bowl. The meat filling had no flavor and the pasta sauce was tart. It hadn’t cooked anywhere near long enough to develop any decent flavors. This was a pretty disappointing meal for $29.
3101 SR 580
Safety Harbor, FL
The last time we drove into Dunedin, I noticed a new Italian restaurant had opened up at the end of one of the strip malls on Main St. It’s called Bascetti’s and is owned by the same folks that own Spoto’s down the street. From the exterior, you’d never guess that there was such a nice little gem inside. The décor was classy and they definitely didn’t have any issues dealing with the Florida August heat. It was downright cold inside. They started us off with some bread that came with a tomato pesto for dipping.
The bread was warm and soft and tasty on its own. The dipping sauce was interesting. I’m not really sure how to describe it. As soon as it hits your tongue, there’s this burst of flavor. I think it was Balsamic vinegar, but I’m not positive. Whatever it was, it didn’t let up no matter how much you ate. It was a very fresh flavor that packed a punch. We tried the fried calamari which also came with a spicy sundried tomato and roasted red pepper dipping sauce.
This was perfectly cooked calamari. Crispy on the outside and very tender inside; even the tentacle pieces were tender. It also had some fried artichoke pieces which were good, but somewhat unnecessary. There was a lot of calamari in the basket. Between that and the bread, I was pretty well full by this point. The dipping sauce with the calamari wasn’t spicy as indicated on the menu, but it did have some unique flavors to it. Loren’s only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it. Next up were the salads that came with our meals.
Neither of us was fond of the mango dressing. It just wasn’t a flavor we liked. For his entrée, Loren got the cannelloni.
It was flavorful, full of meat and cheese. You can get it with red or white sauce. There were two in the dish and he ended up only eating one and bringing the other home. I went for the chicken marsala which came with mushroom risotto.
This was a really tasty dish. The chicken was incredibly tender and the marsala sauce was thick and flavorful without being overwhelming. Plenty of mushrooms and tomatoes in the sauce and the risotto was perfectly cooked. I would absolutely order this dish again. I ended up taking half of it home as well. We also tried a piece of their cannoli cake.
This was the only disappointment of the meal. Loren liked it more than I did. The texture was too dense and the flavors were just too mellow. It tasted slightly cinnamon-like, but lacked creaminess. I should have tried the chocolate dessert instead, but this was the one the waitress had recommended to another table as her favorite, so I thought I’d give it a try. As for the service, it was just ok. Our waitress seemed to disappear for a while and our drinks were getting low. Overall though, it’s a restaurant we’d go back to. Total bill with a drink was $53.
1568 Main Street
We decided to try Bambino Pizzeria in Dunedin for dinner tonight. Being July, the first thing we noticed was that the air conditioners were not able to properly cool the space down which made for a somewhat uncomfortable dining experience. We started off with some eggplant sticks.
Loren was hesitant at first, but they were really good. Crunchy on the outside with perfectly cooked pieces of eggplant inside. They came with a side of marinara sauce that was pretty tasty. Loren liked the bread more than I did. It had lots of cheese and herbs on top, but it was a little too crunchy for me.
I decided to try the lasagna which also came with a side salad.
There was a high proportion of meat to cheese in this lasagna. Since I’m more of a cheesy person, I probably wouldn’t order it again, but Loren liked it. It had some nice flavors, but I found it to be a bit on the salty side the more I ate of it. I ended up bringing half of it home. Loren tried the Bambino Mitt which was sort of an Italian sub on thin crust pizza dough.
He really liked it. I didn’t think he was going to eat the entire thing, but he cleared his plate. It had ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, onions, banana peppers, tomato, mayo and Italian dressing on it. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the cannolis.
They were ok. A little too much cinnamon flavor in the shells for me. As for the service, it was lacking. There was only one waitress on the floor and she was overwhelmed. She never stopped by to check on us after the food was delivered and when I ordered the cannoli, she mistakenly filled Loren’s empty iced tea glass with water. Total bill was $28. The food was pretty good, but this may be one of those places where take-out is a better option than dining in.
Bambino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant
2028 Bayshore Blvd
We decided to stop at Fratelli’s Italian Restaurant for lunch today. They have an inexpensive lunch menu with a lot of different dishes from sandwiches to pastas and pizza. Both the food and service have been hit or miss here, but today everything was ok. Loren got the meatball sub with fries.
The meatballs are pretty tasty, but the fries were just ok. They really weren’t very crispy and that’s the way he likes them. I got the cheese manicotti.
It was like lava when it got to the table, so I had to munch on the bread while it cooled. The bread was very buttery and had a nice texture. It’s a dense bread which makes it great for dipping in the sauce. The two manicotti were cheesy and tasty. I wish they would add more lighting to this restaurant though. It just looks like a dark bar when you walk in. Total bill with a drink was $15.
Fratelli Italian Restaurant and Bar
120 Commerce Blvd, Ste 1
Since we figured we’d be waiting for a table no matter where we went for dinner tonight, we decided to get some Italian food at Johnny’s. Surprisingly, the wait was only about 10 minutes tonight. We got the best part of the meal out of the way first thing, the Johnny bread.
Hot & fresh out of the oven with a garlic oil dipping sauce that will have you tasting garlic for days. It’s so good. We kept going back & forth about whether to get calamari or crab cakes for an appetizer and settled on the crab cakes.
I think we’d have been better off with the calamari. Though the crab cakes were ok flavorwise, they just had no texture whatsoever. They were mushy and definitely needed a crunch on the outside. The two sauces served with them were spicy and spicier. The red pepper sauce was miserably hot.
Loren got a salad and I went for the clam chowder.
The chowder lacked seasoning tonight. A bit of salt went a long way to improving it. Loren ordered the Chicken Fra Diavlo.
He liked it. The sauce was spicy and the chicken was tender. There was easily enough for two meals in the bowl, so he had some leftovers. I went for the fettucine alfredo with mushrooms & onions. I’ve had it here before and really enjoyed it, but tonight’s version was quite inedible.
As soon as the waitress put it on the table, I knew there was a problem. It wasn’t creamy. The alfredo sauce had completely separated. It was a bowl of pasta in oil basically. She took the bowl back to the kitchen & added some additional alfredo sauce to it, but the damage was already done.
I get that alfredo sauce separates when it’s reheated, but it should be able to stay together through the first serving. They did take it off our bill which ended up being $27. This was sadly an off night for one of our favorite Italian restaurants.
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
2907 SR 590 #1
Leo’s Italian Grill opened up 3 weeks ago in Palm Harbor so that was our destination for lunch today. It’s a huge space with a patio, banquet room, and large bar area. We were seated in a booth that seemed rather awkward to me. The table was too long for us to sit opposite each other, so we sat in the middle & looked out at the other diners in the restaurant. The experience didn’t get off to a good start when the waitress brought Loren sweet tea instead of unsweetened and just went downhill from there.
Both our entrees came with soup or salad. Loren chose the wedding soup & I got the pasta fagioli.
Both were desperately underseasoned. A little salt can go a long way. This was the theme of the meal though, it was all very bland. I certainly prefer non-chain restaurants, but I compared everything I ate to that at Olive Garden and the chain definitely wins out this time. The bread sticks were really tough and thick.
Even the dipping oil was lackluster. I also noticed a definite lack of consistency in how the waitresses handled their tables. When another waitress brought out the bread & oil, she explained what was in it. When another table said the bread was hard, she brought them out a different basket. When ours went to clear some plates, she asked if she could take the bread basket & I said yes because it was hard. Her answer was oh, well, sometimes they just come out that way.
We tried the calamari.
It had a very thick coating of batter on it, so they were very crunchy and also in need of some seasoning. The marinara sauce had an undercooked taste to it. It was almost a metallic taste from the tomatoes not being allowed to simmer long enough.
For his entree, Loren got the chicken piccata.
Now, this is a dish he gets at a lot of restaurants and the key flavor you expect to taste is lemon. It was non-existent in this dish. In fact, the sauce tasted like eggs & butter. He did say the chicken was very tender though. I went for the eggplant rollatini.
I’m not sure how to describe the taste on this. It had a lot of mozzarella which I guess ended up being the predominate flavor. The eggplant was very mushy and the ricotta also tasted like eggs. There just weren’t any Italian spices or even salt & pepper to give it any flavor whatsoever. I ate half of one. Needless to say, this isn’t a restaurant we’ll be returning to. I’d choose Olive Garden over this any day. It was a very disappointing $29 lunch in both food and service.
Leo’s Italian Grill
33286 US Hwy 19 North
Palm Harbor, FL
We drove up to Tarpon Springs tonight to have dinner at The Plum Tomato. It’s a little Italian restaurant and though our first impression wasn’t great, the food made up for it. When we walked in the door, we weren’t greeted by anyone. Waitresses walked by and no one acknowledged us and then an older gentleman (I’m guessing the owner) sort of looked at us, but I honestly couldn’t tell if he was a customer or worked there. He eventually came all the way over to us & directed us to a table being cleared.
They started us off with some homemade bread.
The bread was warm and tasty. Would have been nice to have a plate of oil & herbs to dip it in. It was gone in a few minutes though. Our entrees came with soup or salad and we both chose the clam chowder.
It was really creamy and had some rich flavors to it. Very, very tasty and had a nice assortment of ingredients that weren’t mushy and a good depth of flavor. We also decided to try the calamari.
It was good, but not great. Loren liked it more than I did. It was a little on the chewy side, mostly because the pieces were very thin, but the breading was flavorful and the marinara sauce was very good.
Loren got the chicken mediterranean which was chicken & eggplant in a lemony sauce which also came with a side of pasta.
Eggplant is not the easiest thing to get right and they did a really good job with it here. It still had texture and the flavors blended together very well. The chicken was tender and the sauce was good. He even ended up with some leftovers.
I ordered the pasta bolognese based on another review I had read.
I swear there was a pound of pasta in this bowl. I absolutely had leftovers. The sauce was slow cooked and you could really taste the deep flavor of the wine that only comes from letting the sauce simmer for hours. Really tasty.
I also had to get a cannoli to go.
It was pretty good. One of the better ones I’ve had lately. I think for to-go orders though, any toppings should be put in a separate container on the side, otherwise the shell gets soggy. Honestly, it didn’t even need the chocolate sauce & chocolate chips.
Overall, the food was really good. We sat in the booth furthest to the back, so we heard & saw a lot of the service delays. The were busy tonight and we could hear the upset customers waiting on late pizza deliveries as well as the wait staff going back & forth with the kitchen on orders. We had both a waitress & waiter that tended to our table and they were really good, but where we were sitting, I felt a definite tension in the overall air. It also didn’t help that the guy I’m assuming is the owner, sort of hung out at the back of the restaurant where we were and it felt awkward. Total bill with a drink was $43.
The Plum Tomato
1988 Pinellas Ave S
Tarpon Springs, FL