I have always viewed food much in the same way as fashion. There are certain dishes that never go out of style and classics are often reinvented for a whole new look and taste. Pelagia Trattoria in the Renaissance Hotel at the International Plaza is one of my favorite spots to enjoy dishes that are not only incredible in flavor, they are visually stunning. Each time I dine at Pelagia, I leave feeling not only satisfied after a great meal but incredibly inspired.
Last week I attended a new menu preview at Pelagia and just as I expected, I was blown away. Executive Chef Andrew Basch and Sous Chef Brett Gardiner presented a group of us with a beautiful array of seasonal dishes.
We began with a Cured Meat and Cheese Board of Serrano Ham, Duck Prosciutto, Auricchio Provolone, Bel Paese and Taleggio Cheeses and garnished with black walnuts, almonds, olives and a fresh honeycomb. I loved the presentation and really enjoyed everything. The duck prosciutto was fantastic and I loved the flavor which very similar to a pork prosciutto but less salty. The colors on this board of charcuterie were so vibrant that I could not take my eyes off of it.
Cured Meat and Cheese Board
I must say, I am a very adventurous eater and love to try everything, so I was delighted to see our first course of Chargrilled Octopus with Chorizo Oil, Frisee & Florida Oranges. Once again, the beautiful colors caught my eye and after taking several photos, I tasted this magnificent dish. I had octopus for the first time in Rome about 14 years ago and at the time, I was squeamish about trying it. After my waiter convinced me that it was “fantastico” I obliged and took the first bite which would lead my love of this mild treasure from the sea. I enjoyed this dish as it had both an Italian as well as a Floridian flare. When I look at this picture, I can still taste the smokey goodness of the octopus.
Chargrilled Octopus with Chorizo Oil, Frisee & Florida Oranges
I love crab cakes and Pelagia knocked it out of the park with their Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Tomato Jam. Che bella! Once again, my eyes were drawn to this colorful dish and this was one of my favorite items of the night. The tomato jam was the perfect component to the flavorful crab cake.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Tomato Jam
Give me anchovies with a glass of champagne and I am one happy girl! Our next dish was a beauty! White Anchovies, Radish Carpaccio & Orange Zest, this dish was a delectable selection of unique flavors. I prefer white anchovies over black since they tend to be more mild. The orange zest blended beautifully and added a nice citrus flavor to the oily anchovies. I really wanted to pair this with a nice glass of champagne for the ultimate experience, but since I was driving and already sampled some wine, I had to stick with water.
White Anchovies, Radish Carpaccio & Orange Zest
As the night progressed, everyone in our group was raving about the selections. Every time a dish came out, the look of passion in the eyes of both Chef Andrew and Chef Brett was so evident, it just made every bite even more special. They really pour their heart and soul into their craft and the results are just incredible.
Next we tried Grilled Pear & Watercress With Maple Bacon, Blue Cheese & Cilantro Pesto. Another beautiful dish, I loved the fusion of flavors which yielded a nice blend of salty and sweet. Yes, bacon makes everything better but this was so delicious that the bacon was an added bonus. I have been eating a lot of pears lately and love how they taste grilled.
Grilled Pear & Watercress With Maple Bacon, Blue Cheese & Cilantro Pesto
I was very excited about the next dish which was Sausage & Ricotta Pizza. After spending the first two months of the new year on a high protein diet, I had not enjoyed a nice slice of pizza since December. This was fantastico! Thin crust and seasoned just right, there is nothing quite like sausage and ricotta. Oh Pelagia, you made my night with this beautiful pie!
Sausage & Ricotta Pizza
I have always loved black truffles and over the last year my love has turned into an obsession. When I go to menu tastings, I often like to hold off on reading the menu descriptions until after the dish is served so I can use my senses to decipher what is in a dish. As this was brought out, the scent of black truffles aroused my taste buds and my mouth began to water. We were presented with a gorgeous dish of Cavatelli with Porcini Mushroom and Black Truffle Cream. Rich and decadent, this was another favorite. Much like a little black dress, black truffles never go out of style.
Cavatelli (Porcini & Black Truffle Cream)
Living in Florida, I have become even more of a sea food fanatic. I was delighted with our next dish which was Sautéed Florida Snapper With Charred Yellow Pepper Bisque & Organic Quinoa. Snapper is one of my favorite type of fish. This mild and tasty white meat fish is one I order often when dining out. I loved their preparation, as the fish blended beautifully with the yellow pepper bisque. The quinoa was fantastic.
Sautéed Florida Snapper With Charred Yellow Pepper Bisque & Organic Quinoa
Our next dish was Squid Ink Linguine, Seared Scallops & Blue Crab. This really hit home for me as one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco introduced me to squid ink linguine years ago and has been a favorite ever since. I love the black color, as it really makes for a beautiful presentation when paired with red tomatoes and other colors. The scallops were plum and juicy and I love how they paired with the blue crab.
Squid Ink Linguine, Seared Scallops & Blue Crab
Our final dish was Grilled Lamb T-Bone With Minted Quinoa Tabouli & Juniper Berry Saba. I was introduced to lamb by my father at a very young age and have always enjoyed it. Grilled to perfection, the lamb had incredible flavor and the minted quinoa tabouli was the perfect match. This dish is perfect for spring.
Grilled Lamb T-Bone With Minted Quinoa Tabouli & Juniper Berry Saba
I had a wonderful time at Pelagia and was reminded again at how lucky Tampa is to have such an incredible restaurant in the Westshore District. I look forward to many more fantastic meals and can’t wait to introduce more of my friends to this artful Italian gem.
I would like to give a special thanks to Chef Andrew Basch, Chef Brett Gardiner and the fantastic staff of Pelagia for hosting us. I will be back very soon!