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The Avenue in Downtown St. Pete

July 12, 2016

The Avenue St. Pete Review

The Avenue in Downtown St. Petersburg has remained a popular destination for over five years. They have spectacular hamburgers that are unique creations with eclectic combinations of ingredients, and fun, creative names as well. They have $5 burgers on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., which is more than half off, as the regular prices are $12 - $13.50. The burgers are so huge and so delicious that even at the regular prices they are worth it. The Avenue does have other items in case you aren’t looking for a great burger. They have a few different chicken sandwiches, salads and snacks. There’s live music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. It’s great to catch a game on one of The Avenue’s 21 TVs. To see the menu and a review of their Firecracker Burger, check this out - the Avenue St. Pete Review.

Gratzzi Italian Grille

July 4, 2016

spaghetti-and-meatballsGratzzi Italian Grille is the best southern Italian food in St. Petersburg, FL. It is owned by Italian immigrants from Sicily, and it is always packed. The chef himself is one of the owners, and the food is amazing. Chef Tony makes both authentic old school Italian dishes, and gets quite creative with exotic dishes like; Elk steaks, Ostrich egg quiche, Alligator Tail Scallopini, Red Wine Rabbit Sausage, Buffalo Tenderloins, etc.

We love the exotic dishes, but sometimes we just want the traditional great Italian food. Check out this review of different pasta dishes -

Gratzzi Italian Grille Review of Pasta Dishes

The River Oyster Bar

July 4, 2016

By Gary J. Arzt

Because the bar is located at the front of the restaurant, to the right as one enters, you might get the impression you’re in a neighborhood bar that serves food. Au contraire, The River Oyster House is a rather elegant restaurant, specializing in oysters and seafood and fish, that has a very well patronized attractive bar! In that sense, it is a heavily patronized place where the bar is busy… usually two deep, plus the high tops, at the close of the business day and for hours thereafter.

Opened in 2003, under the direction of Chef David Bracha, they offer the finest selection of oysters available in Miami. The range of fresh oysters changes frequently according to availability and will feature Blue Points, Wellfleets, Cormandel, Quonset Points, etc. Always fresh, expertly shucked and beautifully presented … they make an excellent accompaniment to your pre-dinner cocktail, or as an appetizer.

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Perricone’s Marketplace & Café

July 3, 2009

By Gary J. Arzt

A little more then a decade ago, Steve Perricone had a dream. He wanted to convert a home, sitting on S. E. 10th Street, just west of Brickell Avenue (built in the early part of the 20th century) into a restaurant. I shan’t dwell on the results of that effort, save to say that the idea ‘collapsed around him.’ Undeterred, Steve left for Vermont, where he found and dismantled a barn built around 1700. The patina of age, of the beams, flooring and walls have added to the comfort, charm and hominess of Perricone’s - a restaurant that is filled with local businessmen, the idle rich and people passing through town on business or as tourists.
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Jerry’s Cajun Café

June 15, 2009

By: Gary J. Arzt
My friend and associate, Erik Espinosa, and I flew into Pensacola one morning, at 10:30 AM. We were headed for Cordova Cigars for a promotional event for Erik’s 601, Cubao and Mi Barrio cigars. I was tagging along for the hell of it. Robbie Morton, the owner of Cordova, collected us at the airport and we went directly to his shop. We spent about an hour and forty-five minutes there, chatting with friends and talking shop, when Erik announced he was famished. Piling into Robbie’s vehicle we drove the single block to Jerry’s Cajun Café, standing on North Ninth Avenue and La Vista Avenue, in what appears to be an elegant old residence, with the requisite front porch.

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Gratzzi Ristorante St. Petersburg FL

March 16, 2009

Gratzzi Ristorante offers excellent Southern Italian Cuisine

Gratzzi Ristorante offers excellent Southern Italian Cuisine

NOTE: This is our review of the old Gratzzi that closed.
Gratzzi Restaurant Review: Favorite Pasta Dishes
Gratzzi Restaurant Review: Veal Marsala, Italian Wedding Soup

Gratzzi is re-opening as Gratzzi Italian Grille in December 2010, at 211 2nd Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (near the corner of 2nd Avenue South where Pacific Wave used to be.) The new restaurant will have the same owners and chef with a revised menu. We convinced Tony to keep the Sicilian Meatloaf which is reviewed below.

Watch their new website here: http://gratzzigrille.com

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Gratzi means “Thank you” in Italian, and I am quite thankful that I went to Gratzzi Ristorante at Baywalk in St. Petersburg. (They spell it with an extra “z”). The food, atmosphere and friendly, attentive staff made Gratzzi a superb experience.

I started my evening at the bar with a perfect Hendrick’s Martini. Hendrick’s is a fine, smooth gin made with cucumbers. Many establishments don’t have it, so I was pleased and impressed that Gratzzi’s did. I sipped my martini and chatted with the very personable and attentive bartender, Christina while I waited for Laura to finish shopping at White House Black Market downstairs.

Gratzzi is located in downtown St. Petersburg at Baywalk, which is an outdoor shopping, dining & entertainment complex anchored by a 20-screen Muvico Theatre. There’s an art gallery, woman’s and men’s fashions, and several restaurants to choose from.

Gratzzi’s decor is classy. The low lighting and low noise make it a romantic setting. This is a great place for a quiet romantic dinner. Even so, Laura and I opted to eat at the bar as we often do. Eating at the bar is a little more festive and social, and Laura is the consummate social butterfly / people person.

I started with a Caprese Salad of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzerella, Bermuda onions, arugula, roasted peppers, basil infused olive oil, and drizzled aged balsamic vinegar. Laura had the Gratzzi Salad (she always chooses great salads) that consisted of mixed greens with marinated tomatoes, kalamata olives, Bermuda onions, carrots, cucumbers and house vinaigrette.

For the main course, Laura chose Margherita Flatbread and I went with a more hearty selection of Sicilian Meatloaf.

Margherita Flatbread

Margherita Flatbread

Sicilian Meatloaf

Sicilian Meatloaf

The Margherita Flatbread was made of fresh mozzarella, marinated vine-ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil. It was delicious.

The Sicilian Meatloaf is an authentic recipe with boiled eggs, ham, provolone cheese, spinach, onions, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese. It is topped with marsala sauce and served with four-cheese mashed potatoes.

It was completely amazing! This is not your mother’s meatloaf. My mother is of Sicilian descent and she makes great meatloaf, but I have never had anything like this. It was very dense and as chewy as eating a piece of meat rather than ground meat. It was super delicious and a great new experience, nothing like any meatloaf I have ever had.

Although they offer a decent wine selection, Gratzzi’s also offers personal wine lockers for regulars. You can order your favorite wines and have them stored for your exclusive consumption right there on the premises. It should be noted that the restaurant is run by two Italian natives, Carmelo Mangiafico, Executive Chef and Dominic D’Angelo, Director. This is why the food is authentic, unique and delicious.

I highly recommend Gratzzi’s Ristorante. The prices are quite reasonable for such high quality food, unique recipe offerings with a warm relaxing atmosphere, topped off by a friendly attentive staff.

See the 16-Picture Gallery of Gratzzi’s Ristorante or view the Slide Show.

Gratzzi Italian Grille
211 2nd Street South
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701
727 623 9037 (Reservations)
http://gratzzigrille.com

St. Petersburg Pier and Columbia Restaurant

February 24, 2009

We went apartment hunting all day in St. Petersburg without stopping for lunch. By 5 pm we were starving and headed over to The Pier where we ate at The Columbia Restaurant.

There are spectacular views and great food. I was so hungry and tired from the day that I ate most of the food forgetting to take pictures of it. Ooops.

We had fresh baked Cuban Bread.

Fresh Baked Cuban Bread

Fresh Baked Cuban Bread

The Cuban Bread that I am used in the Miami area to has a much lighter, almost white crust, so I asked my Cuban hottie, Laura, why this one had a golden brown crust.

I was suspicious that it was inauthentic. Laura educated me from her upbringing by Cuban immigrant parents in Puerto Rico. She told me that there are two kinds of Cuban Bread.

Pan Sobao - soft pale bread - this is what I am used to finding in the Miami area.

Pan Sobao

Pan Sobao

Pan de Agua - has the hard golden brown crust, more similar to Italian or French bread. This is the one the Columbia Restaurant serves.

Laura told me that for special occasions at her family’s gatherings they make sure there are both types of Cuban bread available.

I found an interesting discussion about the different styles of Cuban bread on Chowhound.

We accompanied our Cuban bread and the rest of our meal with table side, fresh-made Sangria.

Sangria Made Table Side at the Columbia Restaurant

Sangria Made Table Side at the Columbia Restaurant

The Pier in St. Petersburg is an inverted pyramid structure with five-stories. The Columbia Restaurant is on the fourth floor and wraps around for 360 degree views. We had a spectacular view of Tampa Bay.

View from The Columbia Restaurant

View from The Columbia Restaurant

There was a tall sailing ship docked there and we were told that it had a part in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.

Ship had a role in Pirates of the Caribbean

Ship had a role in Pirates of the Caribbean

That was the best shot we could get of it from our vantage point above as there are parts of the building structure that obscure it.

We had a bunch of other food including …

Croquetas de Pollo
A Sunday dinner tradition. This is Carmen Hernandez’s special recipe for chicken croquettes. Six croquettes made with chicken and Cuban cracker crumbs and fried. Served with Columbia Hot Sauce.

Boliche “Criollo”
Roasted Eye round of beef stuffed with chorizo and roasted in flavorful gravy. Served with black beans, white rice and platanos.

Ropa Vieja
Originally introduced to Cuba by Spanish sailors. The name means “old clothes” because the choice beef is shredded, sauteéd and simmered with onions, green peppers and tomatoes. Served with platanos and white rice.

I am sorry I didn’t get pictures of these, but my appetite overruled my brain at the time.

After dinner we did a little shopping for birthday gifts for Miguelito and then headed back to our Clearwater Beach Holiday Inn & Suites.

Here is the view of The Pier from out front in the evening.

The Pier at Dusk

The Pier at Dusk

Columbia Restaurant
800 2nd Avenue N.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
727.822.8000
www.columbiarestaurant.com

Britt’s Laguna Grill Clearwater Beach FL

February 23, 2009

For Valentine’s Day lunch, we went to Britt’s Laguna Grill in Clearwater Beach FL. Their tag line is; “A Superb Culinary Experience in a Light Casual Atmosphere”. Well, truth in advertising has returned! We completely loved this place and would certainly go back again and again.

Britts Laguna Grill

Britt's Laguna Grill

Laura thought the name Britt’s meant that it was going to be like a British pub. I think it was wishful thinking on her part, and a relief on my part when it turned out to just be the name. Afterall, there are two “T”s in it. Nothing against British Pubs, they just don’t do much for me.

Britt’s Laguna Grill has a nice comfortable atmosphere that makes you feel like you belong there and that you would be comfortable hanging out for several hours.

Inside Britts Laguna Grill

Inside Britt's Laguna Grill

We weren’t shy about trying several things on the menu.

First, we had the Almond Crusted Brie.

Almond Crusted Brie

Almond Crusted Brie

The Almond Crusted Brie consisted of imported Brie cheese baked with a tasty almond crust, served with apples, grapes and strawberry with crispy toast mounds. This was a good deal at $8.50.

Next, we shared the Sea Bisque.

Sea Bisque

Sea Bisque

The Sea Bisque was loaded with fresh fish, shellfish and veggies and simmered with sherry wine, which is a required ingredient of bisque. At the $4 price on the menu, we thought this would be a small cup, but we were surprised to receive a large bowl that filled us up after the Brie. Now we were wondering how we were going to eat the rest of the stuff we ordered.

Eh, we’ll just walk it off with some shopping afterwards.

Next came the Mediterranean Medley.

Mediterranean Medley

Mediterranean Medley

The Mediterranean Medley is an $8.50 platter with hummus, tahini, falafel, myriam salad and two pitas. We died and went to Greek heaven … but we weren’t done yet.

Our final indulgence were Oysters on the Half Shell.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the Half Shell

I would go back to Britt’s anytime and every time I visit Clearwater Beach. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and have take-out available.

Britt’s Laguna Grill
309 S. Gulfview Blvd.
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
727-445-1755
www.brittslagunagrill.com

Clearwater Beach Holiday Inn & Suites

February 16, 2009

For Valentine’s Day weekend I booked a 2-room suite at The Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Clearwater Beach. When I told Laura, she replied, “Holiday Inn?” I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking of the motel-like locations.

Luckily, the Holiday Inn on Gulfview Blvd. is more along the lines of a resort hotel. We arrived Friday evening just as the sun was setting. I captured some shots from the 4th floor balcony just in time.

Sunset onClearwater Beach Florida

Sunset on Clearwater Beach Florida

The Sun Kisses the Gulf of Mexico

The Sun Kisses the Gulf of Mexico

In addition to a great view of the Gulf of Mexico, we also could easily be pool voyeurs.

Poll at the Holiday Inn Clearwater Beach FL

Pool at the Holiday Inn Clearwater Beach FL

No tropical beach resort experience would be complete without a Tiki Bar.

Tiki Bar

Tiki Bar

Some more sunset as the “Little Toot” sails by …

The Little Toot Sails Past Sunset on Clearwater Beach

The Little Toot Sails Past Sunset on Clearwater Beach

Suns Sinks into the Ocean on Clearwater Beach

Suns Sinks into the Ocean on Clearwater Beach

The Original Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise is fun for both children and adults. You can see the “Pirate’s Ransom” sailing by Clearwater Beach day and night, firing their cannons at the beach as dolphins jump from the water.

The Pirates Ransom sails along the Clearwater Beach shoreline

The "Pirate's Ransom" sails along the Clearwater Beach shoreline

The daytime cruises depart at 10 am, 12 noon and 2 pm. Champagne Evening / Sunset Cruises are scheduled as well.  Times vary depending on the season.  More information is available at: http://captainmemo.com/

After we unpacked, we headed downstairs to Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar right on the water where you can see and hear the water lap up on the shore as well as see all different types of birds swoop down and glide through the air close to the water looking for their dinner. Obtaining our dinner was much easier.

My Lovely Valentine

My Lovely Valentine

Here’s Laura. I rarely ever call her by her name though. I think she inherits a new pet name from me every day, but I am not allowed to talk about that if I want to live.

The food at Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar was absolutely superb. We started with the Trio Sampler - a sampling of grouper nuggets, coconut shrimp and fish spread. Even though that was already quite an appetizer, I couldn’t resist the Buffalo Gater Bites. Then we ordered our entrees of fresh Grouper and Mahimahi. The fish was fresh, flavorful and fulfilling. As a matter of fact, the portions were huge. You can get any of the fresh fish grilled, jerked, or pan seared with any of the specialty sauces; Caribbean BBQ, Citrus Hollandaise, Mango Salsa, Garlic Cream Sauce or Lemon Butter.

Both Worlds Performs at Jimmys at the Holiday Inn

Both Worlds Performs at Jimmy's at the Holiday Inn

We enjoyed entertainment from the duo Both Worlds from 7 - 11 pm. These guys are extremely talented playing all types of pop, rock and tropical caribbean favorites like the obligatory Jimmy Buffet. They switch off on several different instruments and vocals and put a good funky beat on everything they play.

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Clearwater Beach
521 S Gulfview Boulevard
Clearwater Beach, Florida 33767
Local: (727) 447-6461 - Toll Free: (800) 770-6461
http://www.clearwaterbeachholidayinn.com/

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