Why do I keep going to Italian restaurants when Italian food doesn't typically turn me on all that much? I have no idea. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.
Timpano is a stone's throw from the Hyde Park Village Cinebistro, where I suffered through a 2.5 hour coma-inducing flick (just say "no" to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows unless you bring plenty of smelling salts) this afternoon. Desperately in need of sustenance to help me regain my strength after enduring that torturous film, I nudged UD across the street toward Timpano as soon as the credits rolled.
I ordinarly steer clear of chain restaurants...but this one is just a little chain and does most things pretty well. It boasts a slick interior with a New York piano bar ambience and more-professional-than-average waitstaff for its price point. The menu is comprised of steaks and a Macaroni-Grill-pedestrian selection of pasta dishes and Americanized Italian classics (all the usual suspects...Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna, Fettucini with Chicken, Spaghetti and Meatballs, etc.). Since we weren't in the mood for cow chops and none of the other entree offerings inspired us on this particular evening, we decided to stick with appetizers.
Really good bread was presented almost immediately...hot, crispy on the outside and moist and tangy on the inside, accompanied by olive oil and roasted garlic. Nothing wrong with this.
The single item I never fail to order when I visit Timpano is the Black Skillet-Roasted Mussels tossed with olive oil and kosher salt. Delivered to the table still sizzling and crackling in their little skillet with lemon butter for dipping, these are some of the best I've ever found in Tampa.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Sriracha-Lime and Basil Aioli were fine and boasted a respectable ratio of crab to breading, but failed to thrill. Someone had used a heavier-than-necessary hand with the Old Bay Seasoning, in my opinion. They were nicely presented, as was everything we ordered.
I loved the Mozzarella Bocconcini (the most adorably presented and lightly breaded little fried cheese nuggets that have ever been placed in front of me). The accompanying Pomodora sauce was also wonderful, creamy and fresh tasting. I could eat these all day.
You can find Carpaccio on practically 50% of my blog posts...that's how often we order it. Timpano's version was acceptable if not particularly memorable (WHERE are my capers??? Or maybe some lemon. Or aoli?). It seemed fresh, but it didn't taste like much of anything. It needed something...something more than the drizzle of mustard sauce and the fried egg perched alongside it. To be fair, the carpaccio we had at Bella's Italian Cafe last weekend set the bar pretty high.
Our eyes being bigger than our stomachs (as usual), we also ordered a Tuscan Flat Bread topped with Italian Sausage, Mozzarella, Caramelized Onions, Tomato-Garlic Sauce, Parmesan, Chili Flakes and Sage that we had to bring home untouched. Yay...no cooking tomorrow night!
I like Timpano, but there are many more interesting dining establishments in town. If you're in the mood to play it safe and do some Pretty-South-Tampa-People-Watching, however, this spot could be for you. Not to mention the mussels...they alone are worth a trip.