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