Saturday, September 22, 2012

In The Mood For Italian Food

With thoughts of Italian delights dancing in her head, the Belle of Ballast Point and I headed out on our Friday date night in South Tampa. We wound up at the Caffe Paradiso at 4205 S. MacDill Avenue.

As good fortune would have it, we wandered in to this cozy restaurant around six-ish which was about thirty minutes ahead of the crowd that followed us. Having the place pretty much to ourselves rewarded us with the undivided attention of Julio, our terrific server of the evening.

We began with a bottle of Chianti, a rather tasty Terrabianca Croce with a bouquet of Morello cherry, plum, hints of vanilla and liquorice.

While sipping this wine we looked over a somewhat uninspired appetizer selection until Julio mentioned the specials of the day. Our taste buds perked up with the mention of a beef carpaccio and a smoked salmon carpaccio.

Since we couldn't make up our minds as to which one to choose, we made the obvious choice and requested both.

The beef carpaccio rested under a blanket of baby arugula with shaved cheese and capers.

This was a flavorful  dish though I found the beef to be a bit chewy. We both agreed that this carpaccio was good, just not the best we have ever had.

Our second choice proved to be way more satisfying with paper thin slices of salmon and crispy toasts.

Moving on to our entrées - the Pasticcio Di Lasagna for my bride and the Ossobuco Alla Milanese for the love of her life.

The lasagna, with velvety layers of meat, cheese and pasta, was described by my bride as very good and definitely filling.

Ossobuco is Italian for "bone with a hole" (osso bone, buco hole), a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.

My ossobuco was presented with a cocktail fork, thoughtfully provided to assist in the removal of the super delicious marrow. I had never experienced that touch before - a very pleasant surprise.

The veal shank was so tender that the meat actually fell from the bone and the tomato based sauce was spectacular - rich and flavorful.

This dish was presented with a big wad of risotto which to me seemed a bit gummy. 

Truth be told, I have never been a fan of risotto and don't normally order it so I don't consider myself to be an authority; but it is my understanding that the grains of rice should be creamy, with a slightly resistant core and should not stick together.

We piglets were way to stuffed to consider dessert, but Julio brought us a couple of sweet chocolate covered morsels which we did manage to consume with a degree of gusto.

We then paid our bill ($147 including gratuity) and waddled out to our waiting chariot.

To sum up our experience: the service provide by Julio was perfect, the food - not so much.

Caffe Paradiso on Urbanspoon

The Oracle remains unbiased and untainted by compensation whether it be free food or money. We review unannounced and we pay full price for all that we consume and write about. You are getting an honest opinion!

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