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Pelagia Trattoria…Local Flavors in a Colorful Setting

Italian, Restaurants, Romantic, Westshore

Food is art and Pelagia Trattoria creates only masterpieces.  This past week I had the pleasure of  attending a menu tasting and I am still thinking about the food a week later.  From start to finish, my experience was like an art show of culinary delights in a beautiful setting. Located at the International Plaza next to Neiman Marcus and part of the Renaissance Hotel, Pelagia is one of Tampa Bay’s most exquisite, hidden gems.

 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


From the moment you walk in, Pelagia is a feast for the eyes. With vibrant colors and gorgeous light fixtures, Pelagia reminds me of one of my favorite cities in Italy…Venice. I have only been to Venice once, but the memories of colorful, hand blown glass and colorful surroundings are as fresh in my mind today as they were on my visit there in 1999.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


The deep-blue color on the walls is calming like the waters of the “Laguna Veneta”  or better known as the “Venetian Lagoon” which is the enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea where the city of Venice is located.  Blue is one of my favorite colors and I especially love the blue water glasses on the tables which remind me of one of my all time favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Nancy Oak’s culinary landmark: Boulevard.

The bar at Pelagia is breathtaking. The gorgeous blue background highlights the liquor selections and the lighting creates a serene environment. I could easily spend an evening at the bar sipping on cocktails.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


One of the highlights of Pelagia is their constant incorporation of  seasonal flavors and locally sourced ingredients. This also reminds me of another of my favorite places in wine country,  Mustard’s Grill, which is known for their organic garden. Pelagia proudly displays their garden of fresh herbs such as basil and rosemary on their patio. There is nothing like the scent of fresh rosemary.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


As I enjoyed the scent of fresh rosemary, I saw that they are growing it for the production of Saison Athene, which is a Belgian style ale brewed at Saint Somewhere in Tarpon Springs.  I can’t wait to taste it.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


As my friends and I were seated, we were warmly greeted with a basket of fresh bread served with olive tapenade.  This is such a nice touch and a breath of fresh air compared to standard butter or olive oil and balsamic.  I picked up a piece of bread and slathered some on, took one bite and felt like singing “O Sole Mio.”   Pure bliss!


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


As I enjoyed my bread and sipped on my glass of champagne,  Executive Chef Andrew Basch and Sous Chef Brett Gardiner greeted our table and told us about the culinary adventure in which we were about to embark on.  I must say, I immediately fell in love with their personalities. This dynamic duo makes a great team and their talent is inconceivable.

Our first dish was a Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Turkish Fig stuffed with a black pepper, Florida blue cheese and served on a bed of mesclun greens.  They must have known how much I love figs because this was remarkable. The saltiness of the prosciutto paired with the sweetness of the Turkish fig was simply divine. I really enjoyed the presence of the blue cheese as it really accentuated the flavors of the fig and the prosciutto.  After tasting this, I knew we were in for a very special evening.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


Our next dish brought a huge smile to my face.  The chefs brought out Grilled Georgia Peaches tossed in honey and balsamic vinegar with Burrata cheese and hydro arugula finished with balsamic reduction.  One word: FANTASTICO! Once again, the simplicity of fresh ingredients on this dish was magical. The sweetness of the peaches with the creamy Burrata was intoxicating. I loved the way the balsamic blended with the  peaches created a savory finish. The presentation of this plate was just phenomenal.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts

Our next course was an Herb Risotto with a Seared Sea Scallop finished with Black Mission Figs that were deglazed with port wine.  Risotto is one of my favorites and although it is a simple dish, it is delicate and can be difficult to prepare just right. It must be consumed as soon as it is ready and as the saying goes, “risotto waits for no one.”   I spent a year perfecting my risotto skills and am always looking for a good risotto dish when eating out.  This risotto was perfection on a plate.  It was rich and creamy and was like a fluffy pillow for the tender scallop. Once again, the chefs must have known how much I love figs and they were the perfect accompaniment to this dish.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


By this point, I was so impressed with the food that I didn’t think it could get any better.  I was wrong! As the chefs walked out with out next dish,  I was drawn to the presentation on the plate. Another masterpiece was presented to us and it was Juniper Berry Marinated Squab with Pickled White Cherries and homemade Sweet Corn Polenta. It had been years since I had squab and I forgot how much I liked it. The juniper berries gave this dish a distinct flavor and the polenta truly knocked my socks off.  Hands down, it was the best polenta I have ever tasted.  It was creamy and sweet and accentuated the flavor of the squab.



 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


Our next dish was Yellow Beet Crusted Black Grouper with a Celery Root Puree and finished with a light butter sauce.  Since I lived in Florida, I have grown to love grouper and this was the most unique preparation of this flavorful fish. Beets are another favorite of mine and they were incredible with the grouper. The light butter sauce was the perfect finish.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


Just when I thought we were finished, the chefs presented us with a Grilled Lamb T-Bone  finished with a Black Cherry Demi Glaze.  It was grilled to perfection and the black cherry demi glaze was outstanding.  I have never had this combination of flavors and let me just say, it was beyond delicious.  Lamb is another meat that has to be prepared just right and this dish exceeded my expectations.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


As we finished our lamb, we were presented with something that I will admit I was nervous to try……grappa. I have tasted it a handful of times and found it to be too strong for my taste. Grappa is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems that are left over from the wine making process after pressing the grapes.  Pelagia infuses their grappa with fresh ingredients and this one was infused with blueberry and lavender.  One sip and I was converted.  It was FABULOUS!  In fact, it was so good I called my dad from the table to tell him about my experience, as he has always enjoyed a nice glass of grappa. He wasn’t home but I am sure he will read this and appreciate my grappa experience.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


After sipping my grappa, I was ready to take a “napa.” I was nice and relaxed and didn’t think I could eat anymore. Of course, we had a few sweet endings coming our way.   Chefs Andrew and Brett presented us with two desserts. The first was a Chocolate Mint Semifreddo with a Drunken Berry Salad.   I adore semifreddo and this was outstanding. I loved the combination of the chocolate mint with the fresh berries. It was garnished with a fresh mint sprig that further perfected this dolci piece of heaven.


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


Our second dessert was Coffee and Cigars which is Espresso Panna Cotta and a Chocolate Cigar Tuille.  The presentation of this was dazzling and tasted as good as it looked. Chocolate and espresso are two of my favorite flavors and the marriage of the two flavors in this dessert was simply intoxicating. I can’t wait to go back for this dessert!


 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


I really want to thank Chef Andrew, Chef Brett and the staff of Pelagia for such a remarkable evening. Tampa is lucky to have such a magnificent restaurant in the heart of the Westshore district.  I enjoyed learning about the restaurant and the chefs.  Here is a little background on them as well as a surprise at the end of this post.  🙂


Chef Andrew Basch and Chef Brett Gardiner Biographies

Two chefs who have worked together throughout the years at leading local restaurants and resorts have reunited at Pelagia Trattoria to create what is sure to be an award-winning culinary partnership.

Andrew Basch first became part of the Pelagia Trattoria team nearly six years ago after working at Restaurant Hapa in Oldsmar and the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay’s Armani’s and Oystercatchers restaurants. His first culinary job was with Delectables Catering of Palm Harbor. Originally hired as Pelagia’s kitchen supervisor, Basch was later promoted to sous chef and in November was named executive chef of Pelagia.

Brett Gardiner, who owned and operated the acclaimed Restaurant Hapa, closed that fine dining establishment to join Pelagia as sous chef in December. Gardiner has worked at restaurants throughout the U.S. including Hawaii, his former homeland. Gardiner became a Master Cook through the M.G.M. School of Leadership while creating “French cuisine with Pacific flair” for diners at Gatsby’s, the signature gourmet experience at the M.G.M. Grand Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. He graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute Cordon Bleu, Scottsdale, AZ.

The chefs previously worked together at Restaurant Hapa and at Oystercatchers at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


Pelagia Trattoria:

Pelagia Trattoria specializes in adding a modern twist to traditional Italian cuisine while also incorporating seasonal flavors and locally sourced ingredients. Named to numerous national and local best restaurant lists and the recipient of multiple Golden Spoons, this award-winning restaurant is open year round.

Pelagia specializes in made-from-scratch recipes, handmade pastas and menus that change with the seasons. Located in the lobby level of the Four Diamond-rated Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, Pelagia serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.


For information, or reservations, call 813-313-3235 or go

 **photo courtesy of Blink of an Eye Photographic Arts


I want someone to experience some of the flavors at Pelagia so I am giving away a $25 gift certificate to a reader. You will receive one entry for doing each of the following. Be sure to leave a separate comment on the post for each item you complete, even if you have already done so.  I will pick a winner on August 15th.

  • “Like” Pelagia on Facebook by clicking here
  • “Like” My Other City by the Bay on Facebook by clicking here
  • Follow Chef Andrew on twitter @ChefAndrewPT
  • Follow me on twitter @tracyguida
  • Follow Pelagia on twitter @PelagiaTampa
  • Tweet this post
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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Iley
    July 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Just commenting per your instructions that I liked Pelagia Trattoria on facebook to be eligible for the givewaway. Thanks in advance.

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