To call Harr's Surf & Turf Market a family business is a bit of an understatement. Stephen Innocenzi, the manager and head chef, has been joined by his mother, two aunts, a grandmother, a sister, a brother, and his two grandkids—38 employees in all. The meat industry comes naturally to the clan; Stephen’s stepfather, Ervin Harr, first picked up a filleting knife in 1961, and the pristine white aprons and cases full of crystalline ice eventually called to Stephen as well.
"Back in ’87,” he says, “I was working at a restaurant and studying to be an architect. I found passion for food, so I came to the family business."
In the shop, deep glass display cases teem with more than 20 varieties of fish each day, including Florida black grouper and wild-caught salmon. Staff members carefully wrap shellfish, shrimp, and crab legs, and can fly in live Maine lobster with one day's notice. Stephen walks among the aisles, going out of his way to dispense pairing advice and cooking suggestions.
"We have a customer that comes in, she'll have us write the cookbook's name and page number on the wrapper so she can remember what goes where. I think someone somewhere else would look at the woman, and say 'Huh?' But those of us that have been here, we're fine doing it. We don't mind."
While planning dinners, patrons draw from a stock that includes dry-aged prime beef, pork, lamb, hormone-free poultry, and Boar's Head deli products, all custom-cut in house. Bottles and jars stand on the shelves in sleek ranks, the colorful labels of 350 beers and wines displaying countries of origin that include Spain, Germany, and France. Stephen also takes particular interest in crafting complete meals for patrons to take home.
"We have 22 different types of kebabs made every day. We also have giant, stuffed twice-baked potatoes, we sell about 4,000 of those a week," he says, adding that much of what he prepares is dependent on trends. "My wife and I like to go to eat once or twice a week, and after, we'll brainstorm with the family, see what's popular."
MecaFresh, owned and operated by experienced chefs Robert Stea and Louis Venne, culls fresh produce, quality meats, artisan breads, and gourmet sauces from around the world to inform a globally-inspired menu. Grilled chicken joins forces with mixed greens, roasted peppers, gorgonzola cheese, and walnuts to create aptly named walnut-and-gorgonzola chicken salads ($8.50), while Boar's Head roast beef paninis instill incisors with elation they haven't felt since being chosen to replace baby teeth ($8.25). MecaFresh's chefs also sling a variety of Asian noodle bowls such as shrimp-topped pad thai to satiate seafood cravings ($9.75) and tofu-topped long noodles to leave vegetarians brimming with soy ($8.50).
Prepare 1,000 lunches in less than 20 hours. That was the challenge posed for The Brunchery’s catering staff. The eatery’s experts met the daunting request, quickly assembling the hefty sandwiches that The Brunchery has perfected throughout its more than 25 years in business. When President George W. Bush came to Tampa, the White House called upon The Brunchery's catering. In addition to corned beef, grilled grouper, and shaved steak piled on deli rye bread and kaiser rolls, The Brunchery plies guests with half-pound burgers seasoned by chipotle mayo and dill pickles.
But as its name implies, the restaurant doesn’t just craft food for lunch; it’s possibly best known for its morning treats. Made-from-scratch hollandaise sauce for benedicts and golden pancakes have earned The Brunchery awards including Best Place for Breakfast/Brunch from readers of the South Tampa Community News in 2010. When NBC interviewed owner Greg Elliot, the feature zeroed in on the restaurant’s signature french toast, which mingles cream-cheese sauce, bananas, strawberries, and slivered almonds.
Guests devour this lavish creation and others while dining among the dining room’s decorative dishware, Coke bottles, and shelves. Many of the objects come from Greg’s family, such as a hutch his great-great-grandfather built in the 1800s, making guests feel as at home as a rabbit in a top hat.
Chefs Anthony Sanschagrin and Matthew Beilstein fuse their culinary passions for Italian, Latin, and Asian cuisine, designing menus for special events and divulging their secrets at hands-on cooking classes. Equally capable of creating edible display pieces or full dinner buffets, the duo can forge eclectic spreads with baked lasagna, crispy beef empanadas, or sweet 'n' sour chicken.
They also share their insights by leading internationally themed cooking lessons, which allow students to try their hand at basic recipes and then taste their results afterward. Much like the number of centimeters in a mile, the menus change constantly, incorporating new recipes and accommodating students' food allergies.
Located in the Sherwood Forest Shopping Center, Old World Cheese Shop, a longtime staple of the area, forges freshly sliced feasts from food and folklore. The Robin Hood cold sandwich ($6.75) robs from the kitchen and gives to the stomach with delicious ham and turkey, crisp bacon, cheese, and golden dressing stacked between three slices of pumpernickel bread, while the Sir Galahad steamed sandwich ($6.75) is a gallant warrior of roast pork, cheese, and sweet-pepper jelly served hot on an onion roll. Those hungry for tie-dye-tinted trips into the subconscious may opt for the Pita Fhonda pita ($5.95), featuring Old World Cheese Shop's acclaimed tuna salad.