Sunday, September 7, 2014

Superior Italian At Lauro's In South Tampa

Editor's update: Talk about "a day late and a dollar short." Today (10/29/2014) in the Tampa Times we read that Lauro's was permanently closed. That is horribly upsetting and very sad news. Tampa has lost another truly great, locally owned dining establishment.

Equally disheartening, in the same paper was the news that a new chain restaurant was opening up out on Chain Restaurant Boulevard (Boy Scout Road) that plans on serving pretty much the same, stuff as most every other upscale chain. Joy to the world ... just what Tampa needs, another same old, same old high dollar eating place.

Lauro's will be missed.

The Belle of Ballast Point and I have lived in South Tampa for decades. Last night we looked at each other in wonderment with a singular question on our lips, "Heavens to Murgatroid, why in the name of Snagglepuss have we not been to the fantastic Lauro's Ristorante Italiano before tonight?"

My bride and I attended a family birthday dinner last night at Lauro's and from the minute we entered to the moment we waddled out we were treated to the most friendly and professional service that either of us could recall.

Several in our party arrived about ten minutes prior to our 6:30 reservation and instead of being turned away until all of our party arrived, we were immediately escorted to our awaiting table. Slap my fanny and call me Spanky! That kind of gracious customer service is practically unheard of in Tampa Bay, and the evening just continued getting better.

Stefano, our server for the evening, was charming and gregarious as he catered to our every whim never once making us feel that we were an imposition. He was thoroughly versed in the food and preparation of the menu choices, and was able to offer pairing suggestions from the wine list.

Earlier in the day I had seen a mussel appetizer on the on-line menu. Stefano sadly pointed out that mussels were not available on this night. Sensing my disappointment he suggested I might be pleased with the steamed clams in a fra diavolo sauce. "...might be pleased..." was an understatement of monumental proportions.

Those were the most tender and succulent clams I have ever consumed, and that fra diavolo sauce was orgasmically good...seriously...with the perfect amount of piquancy to enhance the clams without overwhelming them with spice. My bride and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Prosecco that paired well with my clams.

An additional appetizer ordered by our table was the Mozzarella Lucania, the homemade, deep fried mozzarella in a tangy tomato sauce. I wasn't offered a taste, but it must have been good because it disappeared in short order.

To accompany our entrees, the Belle and I shared a bottle of Chianti Classico, Peppoli, Antinori that was recommended by Stefano. This Chianti was lively and elegant, showing herb, black cherry and spice flavors backed by dusty tannins. This wine went perfectly with my indescribably delicious special of the evening, Veal Short Ribs braised in a white wine sauce atop a bed of Pappardelle.

The veal melted in my mouth and the pasta was swimming in a rich, swoon-inducing gravy. This was probably one of the very best restaurant dishes I have ever been served. My taste buds are still quivering in gastronomic excitement.

Before I immersed myself in that plate of veal goodness, I was able to get a snap-shot of the other culinary treasures ordered by our party:

Petto di Pollo Ligure

Carre D'Agnello Fornarino
Petto di Pollo Sassi

Scaloppini Valdostana
I did not taste these other dishes, but no one at our table had anything but praise for the foods we were served.

And, finally, the dessert tray:

Personally, I was too stuffed to care.

The total bill for my bride and I came to a very reasonable $175.97. Stefano more than deserved the 20% plus gratuity we added.

With the growing plethora of Italian restaurants in the Bay area, the one we read and hear little about, Lauro's, is simply the very best.

Lauro's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

Lauro Ristorante on Foodio54

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