Sometimes, instead of going out for a good meal, it’s always nice to have a good meal come to you. This time, I decided to visit a little cafe just down the road from where I live, and bring the goodness home. Just for full disclosure, my mother is from Sicily, so I am a little biased when it comes to Italian food. But walking into this quiet, unassuming cafe in a strip center with no more an probably 15-20 tables, small kitchen, and owner greeting you with a thick Italian accent, you know there must be love in every dish!
Black Mussels Sambuca
There is something to be said about quality Italian seafood dishes, one way to know is the size of the mussels. Lately, when I have enjoyed them I have got a good portion, but they have been small and flavorless, which is not the case here. These giant mussels are cooked in a sauce of natural juices, Sambuca (I’m assuming from the name), a smidgen of oil, tomatoes, onion, pepper, and a touch of garlic from what I can tell, and the taste is amazing. The sauce that the mussels are cooked in have a great flavor that doesn’t have one overpowering taste, but compliments the meat tremendously with just a hint of salt water and a slow burn on the backside. Personally, a hint of sea water makes this dish for me. Instantly one of my favorites. Easily a nice dish to share with a great companion.
Just from first sight, this is made with quality ingredients. The cheese melted on top is uniform with no oil puddles, which you can see in lesser ingredients, and there is that little line of burn on the edge which is visually pleasing to me. I don’t typically think that pasta as tender, but a fork easily cuts though this like butter. The layers of pasta, cooked to perfection, are held together with a light ricotta cheese and meat, cooked in a light tomato sauce. It’s not a heavy dish, and even with the mussels, I don’t feel insanely full like I have with other pasta dishes.
For just under $40 I got an appetizer, entree, and dessert. It is a little more than I tend to spend on takeout, but I have been passing this place for a year now and I was ready to dive into it head first. Easily a place I would take a date or group for a great meal and not feel like I have to talk over anyone or feel rushed to get in and out. One good thing about these types of restaurants is that they don’t feel the need to turn and burn their customers in order to get the next table in, but are more interested in the quality of the food, experience of their clientele.
If you are on the east side of Tampa, driving down 301 south just past I75, be sure to stop at the little unassuming cafe in the strip mall, there will be no disappointment!
There is nothing like eating in a nice restaurant with a great view. Knowing me, I am more of a mom and pop type of place, but today, I met my parents out for lunch at a place called Castagnola’s right on the marina at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf is a little bit of a contrast with the professional tours down the way, and then the local boat owners on this side giving tours of the Golden Gate from their personal boats. Some of them were ran in and out several times over our lunch, and then there were the ones that looked a little questionable. I don’t know if I would pay $5 to take a tour on a “vintage, historical boat” that does a great job in hiding the safety gear. But I digress, lets eat..
I was really impressed with the selection on this menu, from starters, to meats and seafood like Lobster Thermadore. I have always heard of it, but I had never had it. I started out with Oysters Rockefeller, which is one of my favorites. Again, there was nothing special about this dish for a seafood restaurant. The only thing that I noticed that was different was that it came out a little cold and the cheese had hardened on the top.