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