Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Donatello, Tampa, FL

Some things never go out of style - like starched linens; fresh roses on every table; top notch live entertainment; impeccable service from a swarthy, tuxedo-clad staff; and exquisite, classic Italian cuisine. I don’t throw this compliment around lightly, but my recent dining experience at Donatello was the finest I’ve had in Hillsborough County in years ...and I’ve eaten just about everywhere (food being my #1 hobby). It was, quite simply, opulence on steroids.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll get to first base by taking the object of your desire to Donatello, but you’ll certainly have no one but yourself to blame if you don’t. Romance orchestrates itself and all you have to do is shower and show up. This a destination for leveraging your expense account or taking your beloved out for a milestone anniversary, a marriage proposal, or to repent for an almost unforgivable act. My first thought upon being seated was, “I want to stay here all night”. And then, they let me. No one is trying to quickly turn tables here.

While the menu is comprised mostly of Northern Italian dishes, there are nods aplenty to various regions throughout the country. Warm, crusty bread and brightly fresh bruschetta are presented upfront. Appetizers sampled by my party were plump scallops gratinate presented on the shell; house pate (a rustic chicken liver version) and fresh mussels in a zesty marinara sauce (nicely divided into two servings at our request) that no one could resist going all "fare la scarpetta" on. Yep, we sopped it all up with our bread…good manners notwithstanding. It was too delish to waste a drop. 

You definitely want to start with the traditional Caesar salad – cold, crisp and redolent of garlic, anchovies, lemon and Parmesan cheese, just as God intended. I don’t have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to do justice to this leafy masterpiece. You want it. Make sure your date orders it too, though. Did I mention “garlic”? 
The extensive main course offerings include a plethora of beef, seafood and chicken entrees, but the house-made pasta dishes all sound so swoon-worthy that it almost feels wrong not take that direction. Protip to my fellow (sometimes) Atkins dieters, just take the day off because it’s impossible to navigate safely here.

Two of us tried Linguini Al Granchio (pasta in white wine sauce tossed with caramelized garlic slivers and luxe chunks of lump crabmeat) which was ridiculous in its indulgence factor with a nice snap of heat on the end. It ties for the best pasta dish I’ve ever eaten with the unforgettable bowl of fiocchetti with pears. ricotta and Parmesan cream I had the fortune to tuck into at Trattoria 4 Leoni in Florence (Italy, not Alabama) a few years ago. 

Similarly, the classic Bolognese, a hearty and homey dish comprised of tomatoes simmered with a “soffritto” of onions, celery and carrots along with beef and pork, was a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal with the sauce clinging nicely to its bed of creamy, al dente pasta.

My carnivorous cave man’s veal scaloppini with imported Italian ham, mushrooms and truffle in white wine sauce was a fork-tender and umami-riche wonder, flanked with sautéed veggies and a crispy potato croquette. I offered to split my entrée in the interest of mutual reciprocity, but he’s never been much of a team player. 

No one had any room for sweet finishes, but we ordered a couple of them anyway (in the interest of journalistic documentation). The Napoleon, layers of creamy custard sandwiched between sheets of airy puff pastry, was a cross-cultural taste sensation. If ordered, prepare to lose consciousness as you slide your spoon through the textural contrast of this European classic. This is a creation that can go south quickly if left to sit, but Donatello’s version had zero sogginess factor.

And, then…just when I thought the bar had been set…lemon gelato appeared, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. The ultimate palate-cleanser, this extraordinary dessert rolled the richness of ice cream and the intense citrusy flavor of sorbet into one remarkable frozen concoction. 

At the end of the evening, long-stemmed red roses are dispensed to the female patrons in a thoughtful finishing touch. As much as I hesitate to show favoritism, Donatello rules when it comes to upscale dining in Hillsborough County.


Donatello Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.


  1. Squeals! That looks so heavenly!! Can I move in? June Thompson

  2. They certainly put effort into the presentation of the food. A good sign of a well run kitchen. Looks like great Italian cuisine.