Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cafe Milano Italian Restaurant, Clearwater, FL

Is there anything better than high quality cuisine served at astonishingly affordable prices in a cute and clean venue with excellent service?  I think not.  That's why I loved our dinner at Cafe Milano.

The old wallet can only handle the occasional dinner at The Black Pearl, but almost anyone who sometimes splurges on a restaurant meal can easily afford the delicious and freshly prepared offerings at this quaint spot in Downtown Clearwater.  The sign outside the restaurant boasted "Best Pizza in the World", which seemed to be a pretty bold statement to me.  Okay...I'll be the judge of that, being the Food Critic in my Own Mind that I am.  

UD and I met up with my brother and SIL at Cafe Milano for an early Saturday dinner, and my senses were immediately assailed by the enticing aromas of simmering sauces and baking bread wafting from the kitchen.  We were warmly greeted by the owner and very well tended to by our sweet server. The menu is is relatively simple and mainly focuses on pasta dishes, pizzas and paninis.  Almost everything is priced below $12, with many offerings available at under $10.  If you can afford fast food, you can afford this...and it's eversomuch more gratifying.  A limited selection of beer and wine is available...but considering the tininess of the cafe, I was both surprised and pleased by that fact.  Bring on the Pinot Grigio.

We started with the most expensive thing on the menu...Affetato Italiano, which was a huge platter of prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto, salame, tallegio, roasted red peppers, amazing marinated eggplant slices (which were loved by all) and black olives.  At $15, it was easily enough for the four of us to share in spite of the fact that baby bro packs food away like a 300 lb. lumberjack who just emerged from six month state of hibernation. Warm and tasty bread knots were also presented with garlic sauce for dipping.  Beautiful.

Cafe Milano offers at least 20 different specialty pizzas (in a single size befitting either one very hearty appetite or two less so, and all with more interesting than usual topping combos).  I'm so VERY tired of the crappy pizza offerings available to us in the Tampa Bay area and I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about being blown away at Cafe Milano...but I have to admit that UD's Pizza Cappriciosa (tomato sauce, proscuitto, mozzerella, oregano, capers, artichoke hearts and red onions) really ratcheted up my heart rate.  The crust was sheer perfection (at least as I define it)...crispy while falling just short of being crunchy, and thin but not quite cracker-like. nailed it, Cafe Milano!  The tangy, flavorful sauce was generously layered with cheese and fresh-tasting toppings.  I may have to do a little more world traveling before I determine if it actually IS the "Best Pizza in the World", but I can say with confidence that it doesn't have much competition in Tampa Bay and that it's very reminiscent of the wonderful pizzas we ate in Italy.  Deliziosa!

Bro's Spaghetti alla Carbonara was off the chain.  Really rich and nicely done, the liberal use of smoky bacon, egg yolks, ricotta, parmesan and cream must've crammed 2,000 calories into the generous bowl.  Not that anyone's counting until Monday.  

Great minds thinking alike as they often do, we girls jointly converged on the tender meat ravioli swimming in a tangy gorgonzola sauce and were glad we trusted our spidey-senses.

UD and I already had food coming out of our ears after the Anniversary Weekend of, in the interest of vicarious living, we forced the "kids" to order dessert for our viewing pleasure. Young William was a bit resistant at first, but after reminding him of the times I used to shove him in the dryer and turn it on when we were growing up (and somehow convincing him that I might still be capable of perpetrating that heinous act on his 6'4" frame without shattering a hip in the process), he quickly acquiesced and selected the house-made gelato of my choosing...Strawberry Chocolate Chip...which I promptly snatched from his grasp.  There are some things you just never outgrow and stealing your baby brother's ice cream is apparently one of them.

Since he squealed louder at age 47 than he ever had at at 7, I handed it back...but only after swiping a bite or two of the luscious, berry-intense concoction.  This was some seriously fine gelato which was only enhanced by the frozen, dark chocolate bits swirled into it.  If you love chocolate-dipped strawberries, this is for you.

Kim's profiteroles (sweet, tender pastry balls stuffed with chocolate cream and dipped in white chocolate ganache)  were also decadent.

One giant appetizer, four entrees, three glasses of wine, two desserts and two beers:  $100.  Cafe Milano is a delightfully delicious bargain, the caliber of which I haven't seen matched very often in my dining adventures.  I only wish I lived closer to Clearwater.

Cafe Milano Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


  1. OMG! This looks soooo good! Even on a Saturday morning! You went without me. My feelings are hurt. But I'll get over it if we can plan a visit soon.

  2. The food in those photos looks amazing, I am literally getting hungry right now.