Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bella's Italian Cafe, Tampa, FL

Finding a new place to have either a late lunch or early dinner in Tampa on a Sunday can prove to be challenge, but Bella's fits the bill (in South Tampa and opening at 4:00). It sucks being old, but what can we do? Moving forward from our "woe is us, when did we become AARP card carriers" crankiness,  UD and I enjoyed our dinner at Bella's. The interior is warm, cozy and Baby Boomer friendly, piping in enough of soft hits from the 70s and early 80s to make me feel nostalgic (if not a little weepy). Gawd, I miss me some David Gates. :/

We were made to feel welcome right off the bat via complimentary bruschetta (which didn't really inspire me as someone who has zero appreciation for raw tomatoes, but UD hoovered them right down). The bread basket soon followed...warm and garlicky, but not crusty. Foil-wrapped butter pats accompanied the loaf (where is the universal symbol for "no" when you need it?).

Things quickly got more exciting with the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio, which was as sweet and fresh as grass on a spring morning and beautifully garnished with toast points, onion, aioli and grated Italian cheese. Truly a thing of beauty.

Lobster Bisque was also above average and served with an inviting topper of puff pastry along with a sidecar of creme fraiche and caviar. Flavor was good and there were a few generous but overcooked lobster morsels at the bottom of the bowl. Take a look at it while it's still pretty...before we threw everything in and stirred it around until it looked like the aftermath of a bunch of college Freshmen at their first frat party.

My heart beat a little faster when I saw the Pear Sachet on the menu. Described as "pasta purses filled with pear, robiola, ricotta and parmesan cheeses served in a creamy saffron sauce with peas", it transported me back to one of the best pasta dishes I've ever eaten...La Trattoria dei Quattro Leone in Florence, Italy six years ago. It was less sweet and topped with asparagus instead of peas.  Sadly, I lost my photo.  Unforgettable.

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