Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gratzzi Italian Grille, St. Petersburg, FL

Underdog and I used to enjoy sipping prosecco and nibbling appetizers on the shady terrace overlooking Baywalk at the old Gratzzi restaurant, so we were a bit bummed when they closed almost two years ago (it seems that we were the ONLY people who frequented Baywalk).  After a 14 month hiatus, Gratzzi recently re-emerged as Gratzzi Italian Grille in the old Pacific Wave location on 2nd St. S.  We finally got around to trying the new, cozier version of one of our old favorites this weekend.  While the old Gratzzi was a little slicker and more expansive, I found the warm intimacy of Gratzzi Jr. to be equally appealing in its own way.
Gratzzi Italian Grille offers an attractive menu that provides something for every taste.  It's pretty standard Italian restaurant fare and things stay on the safe side, but everything we tried was fresh, tasty and well-executed. 

We brought along our friends Brady and Kate (and everyone was starving) so this post will be really image-heavy...but who doesn't love some good food porn?  Bread was standard issue and served at room temp with plain olive oil.  Pretty forgettable, so I'll move on to the starters.

Calamari Fritti was also predictable but plated nicely and everyone appreciated the lightness and crispiness of the breading.  All but a ring or two was inhaled in short order.
The Pizzelles had me at "hello".  Looks like an empanada, tastes like a  pizza...what's not to love?  I could eat these things all day.  Marinara sauce was above average, also.
Dinners at Gratzzi are served with a choice of soup or salad.  Three of us opted for the Italian Wedding Soup which was truly a thing of beauty.  The broth was laden with veggies (carrots, spinach, tomato and celery to name a few), the tiny meatballs were plentiful and there was just the right amount of orzo.  Awesome.
UD, ever the nonconformist, ordered the house salad which proved to be better than most.  The romaine lettuce was crisp and cold, dressed in a really flavorful house Italian dressing and generously garnished with tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, chick peas and other tasty treats. 
On to the entrees.  I thought Brady's Mutton Snapper (whose existence I'd been oblivious to before today...Mutton Snapper, not Snapper proper) was the best of the bunch.  Snapper wasn't designated the Fish of the Aztec Kings (where's the "trademark" symbol when you need it?)  for nothing and this slab was positively beautiful, fresh tasting and cooked to flaky perfection.  He loved it as well and deemed it one of the best fish dishes he's ever eaten.

As I've stated many times, a veal chop is very tough for the spousal unit to pass up and today was no exception.  It was presented as rare it was still bleating for its mother.  A little much for me, but UD snorted it like crack (somebody please report this guy to PETA).  A wealth of broccolini was served up with this entree as well, which I took off of my beloved's cruciferous-veggie-hating hands (and plate).  Oh, and the earthily rich, creamy mushroom risotto it was perched atop could've been a meal in itself.
I badly wanted to try the Bada Bing, but it wasn't available the evening of our visit so I selected one of the daily specials, a seafood cannelloni enrobed in bechamel and alfredo sauces.  This was nicely done and pleasingly crammed with shellfish.
Kate ordered Cavetelli Al Pesto Genovese (ricotta pasta with arugula, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and chicken) which was flavorful but uber-rich and anvil-heavy.  No wonder she took 75% of it home with her.
No one was hungry after this pasta feast, but life's short so we all ordered dessert anyway.  All the usual suspects were on the dessert menu - cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate cake, cannoli, etc.  Jimbo's foot-high chocolate layer cake showed the best.  It was decadent and truffle-like...reminiscent of a flourless chocolate cake.  You probably can't tell how mammoth this slab is because it came out on a platter as opposed to a dessert plate, but it could've easily fed the four of us.  Do you need smelling salts yet?
The limoncello mousse cake called out to me since I've never had limoncello anything that wasn't wonderful. If you love citrus flavors like I do, this is your dessert. Moist, tangy and lemon-intense, it made a fine palate cleanser (what little of it I had room for, anyway).
Katie deemed her cheesecake a fine representation and it really was creamy and beautiful.
But I think we wuz all wishin' we wuz Brady when his cannoli was presented.  What a superlative specimen...SO good!
We got excellent service from our server, Angela, and consumed all of this plus two bottles of wine for just over $200.  While I can find next to nothing to complain about, I'll probably stick with Laughing Cat or Bernini for my future Italian fixes because I think their offerings are just a tiny bit more original (plus, I don't have to drive to another county to reach them).  Good times and delicious food, nonetheless!

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  1. Yum, yum, and YUM!! I think from the photos, the things I would most want to try would be the pizzelles and the pesto pasta. Every time you post a review, I find myself perusing the restaurant's online menu to see what I would order if I were to go there. I have to say, I would be intrigued by the pizza...but I'm a pizza whore so that doesn't surprise me.

    You look lovely, as always. :)

  2. You are on a serious roll with your restaurant picks! I can't wait to try some of your recent hits. Like UD, I am a sucker for veal chops.

  3. Beautiful Foodtography! Thanks.