Two Monday nights past, the missus and I found ourselves out to dinner in Tampa. Why Tampa? Well, we were visiting on a quick trip (less than 24 hours, in fact) for a confidential project whose details I'm not able to divulge at this time, but suffice it to say that, should said project occur, it would result in big changes to both the Commissary and this blog (more details will be revealed as they become available). Anyway, once I discovered that I'd be traveling to west-central Florida, I did what I usually do prior to arriving in an out-of-town locale - I scout out places to get a good meal. Other than Bern's Steakhouse (allegedly one of the best in the country, at least if you believe what those lists in the airline magazines tell you), I wasn't familiar with any of Tampa's dining establishments; however, typing a Google search that included "top chef" and "Tampa" dredged up a worthy candidate in the form of Pelagia Trattoria, a well-regarded Italian restaurant whose head chef was awarded a local "Top Chef" award in 2012 (no affiliation with the Bravo show of the same name). Not only did PT's menu sound good, perhaps most importantly, it was located within 3 miles of where we were staying, which meant we could get a free ride there and back via the hotel shuttle (we had no rental car).
Given that we'd be dining on a Monday night, I wasn't too concerned about us needing a reservation to get in. As it turns out, I was right about that - when we arrived at PT around 8:30p, we appeared to be the sole patrons. The restaurant is situated between what appeared to be an upscale mall and a high-rise hotel, not necessarily good karma if you're hoping to have a stellar dining experience, but Mrs. Hackknife and I were pleasantly surprised to receive great food along with very attentive service. We started with a couple of small plates: some octopus cured with garlic and mint (a fresh and healthier take on calamari) and something I'd never seen before, that is, the house's take on a deconstructed Caesar's salad called Caesar fondue (see photo below) consisting of grilled baby romaine lettuce, shaved Parmiggiano-Reggiano, a toasted focaccia crouton, and a cup of dressing for dipping these items.
For the entrees, Mrs. Hackknife selected a mind-blowing duck and foie gras risotto, while I chose a seafood tagliatelle, or at least I thought I did. There was a little confusion between me and the server, as I asked for the seafood "pappardelle" (a different type of wide noodle from tagliatelle), not realizing that I would get the following dish instead:
What you see is the restaurant's pappardelle with traditional bolognese sauce and Pecorino cheese, the only dish on the menu that's served with pappardelle. Even though it wasn't what I ordered, it did look good (and the waitress was kind enough to box it up for us to take back to the hotel, where I can vouch for its deliciousness - I sneaked in a couple of bites before bed).
When my actual order arrived at the table, I was still very pleased despite the mix-up. My seafood tagliatelle contained shrimp, scallops, clams, saffron, and guanciale (see photo above), a nice blend of surf and field Italiano-style. Sadly, we were too stuffed for dessert and our trip to town was too short to eat anyplace else besides the hotel's breakfast buffet and the airport Friday's, so I can't comment further on the status of Tampa's dining scene, but let's just say that I may have significant opportunity to do so in the near future....