Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shoulda Gone To Luigi's

Some months ago, my bride and I decided to "do Italian" at a South Tampa dining venue, Osteria Natalina. We had read a number of very positive reviews on Urbanspoon, and after visiting the Osteria web site, we decided to stop in for dinner. We arrived a bit after their advertised opening time but we were met by a locked door. It seems that we arrived during vacation closing, or some such.

Undeterred, we changed plans, and dined at a different Italian eatery that night, but made a mental note to try Osteria Natalina some time in the future. The future arrived last night.

After checking the restaurant's hours, we pulled in to the parking lot a little after 5:30 with appetites that were raring to dine.


We were again met with a locked door. We could see a couple of people inside, but a locked door is, well, a locked door. We began walking away, but just then we heard the rattle of a door being unlocked. Well, alrighty then!

A head poked out and a gruff voice bellowed, "We open in five minutes." The door slammed shut. What we should have done, and did consider doing, was just to keep walking.

While waiting for this special door to re-open we struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was also waiting. That helped pass the time until the "holiest" of food doors opened again...fifteen minutes later.

Mr. Grumpy, apparently the owner and gate keeper, inquired how many. We said just two, and our new friend said he was one of a party of six. Were were told to enter. The gentleman was denied entry until all six in the party showed up. There would be no waiting at a table until the others arrived, and that was final!

My bride and I were guided to a small table for two and presented with menus and water. We had our server's undivided attention since we were the only customers who were allowed in up to that point, so service was good.

We ordered a wine by the glass - a tasty Sangiovese. In addition, we chose to start with two appetizers. For the Belle of Ballast Point, Il Carpaccio Fresco di Tonno, a yellowfin tuna carpaccio.

My, oh, my, was that carpaccio ever...awful! It was drowning in a sea of lemon juice that totally masked any flavor that tuna may have had. To add insult to injury, the onions hadn't been completely peeled, and still retained some papery skin.

I fared much better with my ubiquitous appetizer of Le Cozze All A Cappa Style, black mussels in a red sauce. This dish was good, just nothing to gush over.

For our entrées we chose the Four Cheese Pear Pasta Purses (Sacatini) with Walnuts and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce for her, and the Mixed Grill for me. The Mixed Grill consisted of a couple of slices of filet mignon, veal, and a couple of Italian sausage patties.

I'd love to wax poetic about our food and experience at Osteria Natalina, but that won't be happening. This was the most disconcerting dining experience we have ever had. There was no warmth or friendliness. There were no smiles or friendly greetings. There just seemed to be an air of negativity that was very off-putting - starting with the Guardian at the Gate...

Our bill for food and drink came to $135. We tacked on 20% for our server. We won't be back.

Osteria Natalina on Urbanspoon Osteria Natalina on Foodio54


  1. Wow...I hate to hear that you guys were treated so rudely. We've really enjoyed Osteria Natalina the two times we've been there. What did the BOBP think about the Sacatini?

    1. Hi Sweet Polly,

      It isn't that we were treated rudely as much as it was a pervasive sense of negativity that seemed to permeate the dining room. There was no feeling of warmth or friendliness.

      We have never experienced anything like it. We just felt very uncomfortable. There just wasn't any joy apparent in the room. We won't speak for others, but there weren't a lot of smiling faces at adjacent tables.

      Even if the food was great it was hard to really enjoy the meal. We were happy to leave.

      That is so sad.

      Our server did his best to make to make this a pleasant meal.

    2. Well...hopefully we'll all have a great experience at our upcoming convergence. Happy V-Day to you and the BOBP!

    3. I have always wanted to try that place, now I am not so sure.

    4. Sweet Polly, just dining with you and Mr. Dog would make even Mickey D's a monumental gastronomic experience.

      Well, maybe not, but we are looking forward to our next convergence. And, a very happy V-Day to the both of you from the both of us.

  2. Hi Tracy,

    First things first - thanks for reading the Oracle and posting a comment. It is always a pleasure to hear from a fellow blogger.

    I would not want this review to dissuade you from trying Osteria - maybe we just arrived on a really bad night. Except for that mushy tuna carpaccio, the food wasn't bad, the prices were competitive, and our server was efficient.

    Really, our complaint was just that feeling of tension in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife. That wasn't a happy place.

    I would be interested in reading your review if you decide to give them a try.

    Thanks again for your comment,


  3. Novemember 2013 I just found your comments while searching through restaurant reviews.I am delighted to read that we aren't the only ones who have been treated rudely at this place.The owner pulled the same stunt on us as he did to you two in acting rude, abrasive and making you wait outside as though you're somehow bothering him. We've eaten here before & love the food but will never go back! One too many times of the owner acting like a self absorbed jerk who only wants to cater to the fancy schmancy S Tampa crowd is enough.He obviously doesn't care who he chases away because apparently diners are still willing to put up with arrogance,It's a shame really since the food is so good.

    1. Hi Anon,

      I certainly agree that the arrogance is off-putting, but for us the food did not warrant the hype and pretentious prices. We have never gone back, but we dine frequently at Luigi's - good food, better prices, and friendly staff.

      Thank you for reading the review and commenting.


  4. I called the restaurant to reserve a table and the guy who answered rudely told me no reservations, first come first serve. So I thought, I’ll give it a try regardless. My friends and I show up at the restaurant at 5:30 for dinner and went to open the door, which was locked. Strange, I thought, since there were two men sitting right there looking outside. I knocked and a guy opened the door and asked what we needed. I said uh,,, dinner. He said we’re not open; I explained I had called and was told 5:30 opening. He said it’s not 5:30; my friends and I all have 5:30. I said ummm it is 5:30; he said not by my watch and goes to close the door. I told him you’re the same rude guy I talked to on the phone. He said you don’t like it, go somewhere else. I’m assuming he was the owner. Jesus, are you kidding me?! Clearly, we left…

    1. Dear Anon,

      Been there and treated the same way. Hate to tell the owner but the food does not trump his rudeness.

      Thanks for your comment.