The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Italian Lunch

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
Oldsmar, FL

Fratelli Italian Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: Italian, Oldsmar
  • 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
    Clearwater, FL

    Johnny's Italian on Urbanspoon

  • Filed under: Clearwater, Italian
  • Unseasoned

    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

    Leo's Pizza & Italian on Urbanspoon


    Good Flavors

    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
    (727) 944-3330

    The Plum Tomato on Urbanspoon


    Luck Ran Out

    The last couple of new restaurants we visited were really good, but our luck ran out when we went to the Lombardi Cafe today.

    The place was empty for Sunday lunch.  Just one other table with a bunch of annoying children.  It’s an Italian restaurant with pasta dishes, pizza and sandwiches, but it’s sort of set up like a sports bar with a bunch of TV’s all tuned to sports channels.   Plus there was a DJ set up in one corner & a disco ball on the ceiling, so I’m not totally sure what the overall vibe of the place is supposed to be.

    But, on to the food.  We started off with some calamari.

    It had a decent crunch, but was a bit chewy and definitely underseasoned.  The sauce was really thin and watery.  The flavor was ok, but it just dripped off the calamari.  Loren got an Italian sub with potato salad.

    It was huge.  Definitely enough for two meals and he liked it.  I, on the otherhand, ordered a Philly cheesesteak and ended up sending it back.

    I’m not sure how to describe what it was that I didn’t like about the sub.  The first thing I did was just pick a piece of meat off and tasted it and immediately didn’t like the flavor.   I don’t know if it was herbs blended with it or what, but it just didn’t taste right to me.  I tried a couple more bites, but just couldn’t get past the odd flavor.  Loren tried it and didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t something I was going to eat.  I also didn’t like how crusty the bread was.  The waiter saw I wasn’t eating it and offered to bring me something else, so I went for a simple ham & cheese.

    It was ok, nothing to write home about, but at least it was edible.  I wasn’t a fan of the bread they used here.  It was just too thick and hard to eat.  I also didn’t like the potato salad.  It was too sweet and very generic.  Definitely not homemade.

    I also got a dessert to go since I figured it wasn’t likely we’d be coming back to eat again.

    Believe it or not, there’s a cannoli in there somewhere.  Talk about overdoing it.  I’m of the mind that you should be able to eat a cannoli with your hands.  There was so much extra filling, whipped cream & chocolate sauce ladled on top of it that you had to eat it with a fork.   The overall flavor was ok, but it was way too messy.  Total bill with a drink was $32.

    Lombardi Cafe
    34210 US 19
    Palm Harbor, FL

    Lombardi Cafe on Urbanspoon