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