Pelagia Trattoria: Tampa’s Tastiest Secret

Bright and blue inside Pelagia

Saturday night mid-summer and we couldn’t get a table at the big-name Tampa restaurants. Then I remembered Pelagia Trattoria. I had dined there a few years back while staying at the Renaissance hotel in International Plaza shopping center, not far from our hotel in the Westside district.

It was our anniversary, so we wanted someplace special. My husband was a little doubtful about a chain hotel restaurant, but I raved and we went.

The setting exceeds the old “hotel restaurant” preconception with a chic backdrop of display kitchen, pizza oven station, and blue-hued bar. I should also mention it is a Florida Trend Golden Spoon winner, but still flies a bit under the mainstream radar.

Italian with a Twist

“We take classic dishes and we modify a little,” Chef Andrew Basch says of the restaurant’s signature crunchy stuffed olives with three meats appetizer and other creative fare.

This time around we started with the shrimp a pir pir small plate. Three butterflied jumbo shrimp arrived subtly dressed in a light tarragon vinaigrette that didn’t disguise the freshness of the product or its perfect doneness, but then surprised with a little tongue-tingle finish.

Sipping glasses of crisp white wine and smearing a fine tapenade on grainy bread, we were already flushed with the anticipation of a fine meal.

Pelagia’s pomegranate duck breast masterpiece

Quite frankly, I was nonetheless unprepared for the brilliance of my entrée, the pomegranate-marinated duck breast, which I ordered medium rare. The boneless breast fell out of some culinary orgasmic sky, but the white polenta – which had almost deterred me from the dish – altered biases.

Polenta, in my culinary thesaurus, has always equated with white bread. Bland in taste, only slightly more interesting in texture. But this! Detectable and delectable cooked corn kernels sweetened and added full dimension to a dish our server told us is hand ground in-house. (You can get this as a side dish, and I wholeheartedly encourage such indulgence.)

And I’m not finished! The veggies, too often an afterthought, shined on their own. The mélange of “winter vegetables” brought golden beets, green beans, and baby carrots to – dare I use another sexual reference? (it WAS our anniversary after all) – some secondary stimulation.

My husband’s scallops dish was also stellar, but we both agreed it was tough to follow the duck uh… act. The oversized scallops were pan sautéed and served atop a cannellini bean ragout with key-lime-basil emulsion. If it sounds like poetry, that’s exactly how it tastes.

Limoncello creme brulee

Sweet Endings

The dessert offerings made decision-making impossible, but I knew my husband would go for the limoncello crème brulee, and indeed, after 28 years of marriage, I at least had that right. Limoncello flavor was concentrated in the brittle sugar crust and the underlying chilled custard left nothing to be desired.

By the way, the stuffed olives ARE amazing. And let me mention some others I haven’t tried but desperately need to: octopus appetizer cured with garlic and mint, marinated yellow tomato salad, gnocchi with wild boar ragu and homemade ricotta, and roasted porchetta.

If You Go:

Pelagia serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For dinner reservations, call 813-313-3235. Entrees range from $21 to $31.

The Renaissance International Plaza is located at 4200 Jim Walter Blvd.


One Response to Pelagia Trattoria: Tampa’s Tastiest Secret

  1. Can’t believe I was there at the same restaurant the same night as you were and we didn’t connect! Always a pleasure to read about your culinary – and other – adventures. Pelagia, as you know, is also one of my favorite places to dine. Congratulations on your anniversary!

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