Tampa restaurant review: Un-ostentatious Osteria Natalina showcases seaside legacies

Osteria Natalina draws from its previous life as Spartaco to offer something new and something old. It’s set in the same location, a corner of a strip center in South Tampa. Its obscure location doesn’t keep it from being discovered — it’s a well-traveled haunt. And its short, uncomplicated menu, with English subtitles, showcases owner Spartaco Giolito’s hometown, Rimini, on the Adriatic coast.

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New Year's Eve restaurant spots and events for Tampa Bay 2012

If old acquaintances are not to be forgotten, don’t choose a forgettable place to ring out the old year. Check out these ideas to ring in New Year’s Eve 2012 in Tampa Bay.

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Any day is good at Tampa’s Sunday’s (Fine Dining)

You never know who will be in your eatery in Ybor City. Sunday’s Fine Dining owner is still clucking about the rooster that took up residence in his office for a few days. His management style wasn’t so bad but his keyboard skills were all hunt and peck. Dave Sunday, armed with a skill set culled from the army, the Long Island fishing community and a degree from culinary school in New York (NYIT), has gotten notice here. Once a chef in South Hampton, N.Y. during summers, he chose to winter here and cook at the Straz Center for the Arts. Even that wasn’t his idea of paradise.

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Pop up KitchenBar4 emerges in Tampa's Knife and Co. spot

Laura Reiley at the St. Pete Times revealed that Jeannie Pierola’s fourth pop up restaurant concept will be making its appearance at the newly opened Knife & Co. spot on Kennedy (formerly Al Gusto Mexican). TaylorEason.com food writer Mary Scourtes reported on on Knife’s woes in this post but who knew they’d close down for the month of December. But to make way for the empress of Tampa Bay food, it’s all for a good food cause.

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It’s great to celebrate your birthday with these Tampa Bay deals

The appeal of TV serials like Cheers, Friends and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is having a tight group of buddies who are willing to exalt in your victories, commiserate in your setbacks, and, of course give you a rousting birthday celebration every year. Lacking a favorite watering hole and posse of pals, where can you go to pick up a little cheer on your birthday? A few restaurateurs value your big day and offer you an entrée (you may need to register ahead). With the economy faltering, even a free dreamy dessert, works as a treat. Just remember to BYOL (bring your own license).

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Restaurant review: Knife and Co. in Tampa still needs a little sharpening

A wisecracking critic could have a field day mocking a restaurant during the first week during a dreadful economy. A writer with a chip on her shoulder could make mincemeat of a new enterprise that acknowledges her reservation but still doesn’t have a table available. Still, there is hope for Knife & Co. One of its defining features is the chef’s commitment to prepare almost everything in-house, from hot biscuits and grape jam to curing their bacon.

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Where to get great deals on food in Tampa restaurants

Stumbling upon a deal at a favorite restaurant makes dining sweeter. While Groupon, Eversave and other marketing companies offer deals, there are places that have secrets that insiders feed on. The key to savings is eating early, on slow days, or with other night owls. Check out these super savory savings.

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Tampa’s Carmel Café brings California cool to Carrollwood

Starting with a cuisine that is steeped in tradition, Carmel Café & Wine Bar serves Greek, French and Italian fare. Carmel’s niche is Mod Med, or modern Mediterranean, and its name is inspired by an array of trendy restaurants dotting the northern California coast. With an iPad for just about every customer, I think this is a first in our area. This popular gizmo serves several functions, explains company president Terry Ryan, who likes the Apple technology. “It allows us to blend technology with hospitality, and gives a server more time at the table. You can also visualize what you’ll order, resulting in servers spending more time helping patrons, rather than taking orders,’’ he says. You pick a plate; press send and your order arrives lickety split. Those interactive tablets describe the menu, offer help for choosing wines, and show photographs to make the mouth water. We liked its featured wine pairings and wine tutorial. Small plates or large portions are available and you set the pace for arrival.

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Tampa food scene news: Food truck frenzy, Epcot Food Festival, restaurant openings

Although I don’t live there anymore, my heart still belongs to Tampa. And I follow the resto news pretty obsessively. A few tidbits you might have missed like the food truck frenzy, food swaps and restaurant openings and closures.

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Top Ten Thai Restaurants to try in the Tampa Bay area

My love affair with Thai food started years ago. From the hottest bird’s eye peppers to a classic cucumber/jicama slaw, I’m in awe at the clever cleavers and hands that prepare simple-to-seriously-involved dishes. Chefs take advantage of their carving skills to make entrees more indulgent with crafty, carved pineapples, watermelons, apples and other profuse produce. Many country and cultures influence Thai cuisine, including a strong Indian presence. Traditional sweet ingredients (hoisin sauce), sour (tamarind), salty (oyster sauce), bitter (saw leaf herb) and hot (chili peppers) offer the right ying and yang. Best of all, everyone wins because it is conducive to poke around each others’ entrees and share all. I offer up my top ten Thai in Tampa Bay.

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