Chefs whip up house-made pasta, sizzle ocean-fresh salmon fillets, and pair red cherry tomatoes with imported buffalo mozzarella to populate a menu of traditional Italian cuisine. After the chefs apply the final garnishes to entrees, servers shuttle the piping-hot dishes to diners seated at round tables draped in white linens. On Wednesday–Saturday evenings, live music fills the dining room, bouncing off exposed brick walls and jingling off the chandeliers to tickle the ears of patrons as they sip red and white wines from the full bar. Outdoors, an expansive courtyard hosts sunlit and moonlit dining enclosed by brick columns and lush palm trees that occasionally lean over patrons' shoulders to steal a bite when they're not looking.
Drawing on culinary insights gleaned over 20 years of refining family recipes, the cooks at Antonio's Pasta Grille fill plates with sauce-draped pasta dishes and pizzas built on homemade dough. As they dip freshly baked bread into herb-infused oil, diners can stare wistfully at a mural depicting rolling hills, stone bridges, and wars between groups of talking animals from young-adult novels.
In 1973, Art Capogna opened the doors of his Dugout, a casual eatery devoted to sports and Italian food. In spacious family-friendly dining rooms, framed jerseys and pennants hang above plates of pasta, calzones, hoagies, and pizza. Most of the remaining wall space is occupied by TVs—six in the family dining room and 18 in the sports bar—and plaques commemorating Art's devotion to supporting youth sports. Crispy pizzas slide steaming from fiery brick ovens, layered with italian sausage and green peppers, ham and pepperoni, and many other topping combinations. Diners can also sink forks into entrees such as sirloin steak or chicken cordon blue as adults sip beers and kids try to shake hands with the huge baseball coach painted on the wall.
A brick oven blazes, transforming soft dough and raw vegetables into savory thin-crust pizza pies crowned with fresh mozzarella and 27 combinations of toppings. The methods used at Cafe Milano go back for centuries, and each dish honors the Italian tradition. Imported spaghetti noodles, gnocchi, and penne pasta support rich sauces, and house-made soups exercise atrophied slurping muscles. Freshly baked breads hold Italian meats such as mortadella and prosciutto together in handheld panini sandwiches. For dessert, in addition to pastries imported from Italy, servers scoop artisanal gelato in flavors such as tiramisu or biscotti, and thirsty diners can sip wine, beer, or frothy cappuccinos.
Cesare Tini grew up in Rimini, Italy, where his family of restaurateurs slowly conditioned his brain with their culinary secrets. When he departed for America, he packed a stack of his clan's perfected recipes, which he eventually parlayed into a hearty menu for his eatery in Clearwater Beach.
Cesare's at the Beach's house-made pastas include fettuccine, lasagna, and crabmeat-stuffed ravioli, which arrive at tables draped in sauces such as creamy b?chamel, white wine, and marinara. Veal, chicken, beef tenderloin, and sea scallops also fight for the spotlight, making the dinner menu a suitable metaphor for junior-prom court. A lengthy wine selection washes down savory bites before handcrafted tiramisu, cr?me br?l?e, and cannoli brush tongues with Italian sweetness. All of these menu items helped Cesare's at the Beach receive TripAdvisor's "Certificate of Excellence" in 2012?2014.
Weighing in at almost a pound per slice, Mario's Pizzeria Trattoria's philly-cheesesteak stuffed pizza teems with meat and three cheeses. This is just one of the menu's specialty pizzas, which also include the pizza with nine vegetables and four cheeses and the Chicago Classico, made with sausage and fresh basil. The pizza dough is made fresh daily, as is the tomato sauce that douses pasta dishes.
Diners enjoy their pizzas, pastas, subs, and salads inside or out on the patio tables. They can even cruise through Mario's drive-thru window in Largo if they need a meal to go or a quick olive-oil top-off to keep car engines running smoothly.