That space sat empty for quite awhile but then we started to see remodeling going on and discovered that the Stefano's Restaurant on Gulf Boulevard had closed and was taking over this space in Portobello. This Park Boulevard location is more convenient for us so we waited ... and waited ... and waited for this new location to open. Finally, they did and three of us popped in for dinner this past weekend.
Since we had never been to the Gulf Boulevard location we have no comparisons to make as to food or decor, but this Stefano's exuded a warm and friendly charm. The make over from the previous tenants was most pleasant, indeed.
I had called ahead for reservations at six and we were on time. We were greeted at the door, our reservation was confirmed and then we were told our seating options were at a high-top, the bar, the outdoor patio, or we could wait for a table to open up. The patio was facing due west into the setting sun so we decided to accept seating at the high-top.
Ashley, our most charming server took our drink order; a delightful Banfi Belnero Super Tuscan with gentle aromas of vanilla, tobacco and coffee, with hints of cherry jam and prunes. Having enjoyed a full lunch earlier in the day, the three of us eschewed the appetizers and headed right to the entrees that were preceded by two house salads and one with romaine lettuce whimsically referred to as a Caesar.
My bride chose the Eggplant Parmesan sliced fresh, lightly breaded, stacked with mozzarella, fried till golden brown and served with pasta and fresh marinara sauce. The eggplant had a nice crust on the outside with a creamy center.
I am hesitant to order fish at most any restaurant along the Pinellas coast since too may places cook the fish to death. Ashley convinced me to give the Grouper Special a try.
Gracious goodness was that grouper ever perfect. It was cooked all the way through with a luscious taste and a perfect mouth feel. This fish wasn't cooked to mush. It was, well ... perfect.
The only downside to our three entrees was the glob of pasta that came with each dish. The pasta would have benefited greatly from a splash of hot pasta water to unglue the noodles that were clumped together. The pasta was cooked al dente but the noodles refused to be separated.
The issue with the pasta is a simple fix. We were impressed with Stefano's and plan to return since we are local and they are close.
Dinners for three with a bottle of wine came to a pocket pleasing $128.40.