Monday, May 6, 2013

A Restaurant In Hiding

Hidden in the nethermost regions of International Plaza sits the Renaissance Tampa Hotel and just off the hotel lobby is the Pelagia Trattoria "featuring modern Italian cuisine." After reading a host of Pelagia reviews that simply oozed gustatory delight over this venue's bill of fare I decided I had to see for myself. Was this just hype or gastronomic nirvana?

The Belle of Ballast Point and I wandered in to the Pelagia Trattoria this past Saturday evening around 5:45 and found ourselves in a beautifully decorated dining room. We were greeted at the host's station and promptly guided to our table. Since we were the only customers at that time, we had the option of sitting anywhere we wanted.

Allie was our very efficient and professional server for the evening. She provided great service without being overbearing or hurried. Along with the menus, we were presented with a small bread basket with a couple of slices of olive loaf and a side of olive tapenade. Both were excellent.

We began our dining adventure with a couple of glasses of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling while we looked over the food and wine menus.

I knew I wanted an appetizer, but which one? The grilled octopus sounded good, and I do love octopus. A few weeks ago I watched an episode of David Rocco's Cooking Channel show, Amalfi Getaway. One of the dishes David swooned over was a plate of white anchovies that truly looked delizioso.

And lo, Pelagio features as one of the Signature Bites, White Anchovies with Radish Carpaccio and Orange Zest. I must have that!

Oh my, how nice, how very nice...three small toasts, six little minnows, a blob of aioli, three slices of radish (Carpaccio? Surely, you jest!), and some celery leaves, all for a mere $8.00. This wasn't what David had, nor what was apparently served at a special "tasting night" this past March. I could only think, "I probably should have had the octopus."

Here is a comparison photo of the white anchovy plate served by the restaurant for a promotional event:

Photographer unknown, but photo found on several web sites without credit.
I find this to be offensive! My bride called it false advertising, and she is right. Paying customers deserve the same quality as that found in advertisements.

In fairness to Pelagio, they are not the only ones who engage in this practice.

My bride fared little better with her Heirloom Tomato Burrata Salad, with one quartered tomato, that she described as good, not spectacular, and not worth $13.

From the House Made Pasta side of the menu, my dining partner ordered the Potato Gnocchi with Braised Short Rib and House Made Ricotta. Of this dish she said the meat was tender, flavorful and there was plenty of it.

My choice for a main course was the Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Minted Quinoa Tabouli. Quinoa (KEEN-wah), a species of goosefoot, is a grain-like crop that originated in parts of South America 3000 to 4000 years ago.

This was my first experience with Quinoa and I was looking forward to giving it a try. To paraphrase the late Ambrose Bierce, "Once is more than enough." I think I would have preferred a more traditional Middle East tabouli to accompany my over-cooked lamb T-bones. I had requested medium rare, not medium to medium well. Oh, well!

I am not a dessert person, so while my gorgeous dining partner enjoyed her Godiva Chocolate Pyramid with Pistachio Gelato and Almond Tuile, I chose to just observe while polishing off the last of our bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir.

I had a bite of that pyramid and that chocolate was not just decadent, it was sinfully good.

The Oracle prides itself on not trading glowing reviews in exchange for free grub and hooch. We dine anonymously and pay for all that we consume. Usually! On this night I made a small exception. To do otherwise would have been rude.

While I had declined dessert, our delightful server decided to reward me for not being an obnoxious customer (I suppose) by presenting me with this complimentary White Chocolate Cheesecake. Allie cautioned that I didn't have to eat it all, and that was good because I couldn't. I was already stuffed, but that cheesecake was heavenly.

Our total bill for the evening was $142.31 and we added an additional 20% for superior service.

Even with pizza and pasta on the menu, with the name Pelagia Trattoria, I would have expected a dining venue leaning a little more toward Italian and less Middle Eastern. That is just a personal opinion. For a hotel restaurant, Pelagia Trattoria may not be a bad choice if you are in the area.

To conclude: Inconsistent and certainly not gastronomic nirvana.

Pelagia Trattoria on Urbanspoon
Pelagia Trattoria on Foodio54

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