- Lori Brown
- Nov 16, 2017
- 4 min read
IL Ritorno announced earlier this summer plans to expand their existing space to double the size. Originally they planned to close for just a few weeks with hopes to be done by the end of September. Hurricane Irma, however, had her own agenda. The restaurant had to close for the hurricane and then decided to just stay closed until the renovation was complete.
Chef David Benstock and his wife, Erica, invited us in today for an exclusive tour of the new space. As any restauranteur downtown will tell you, there is always more red tape than initially expected when opening a new restaurant or doing a complete renovation. And IL Ritorno ran into some of this as well, pushing the timeline out to December for completion. At this point, they are hoping for opening around the first or second week of December. They already have ten parties booked for December and are holding the contractors accountable for completion dates. All is running smoothly and activity is abundant inside.
There are many new features of the restaurant to discuss. First there is the new Chef’s Bar which will look into the open kitchen. Guests will dine here on a six to eight course “chef’s choice” dinner of the night and have a front row seat to watch meal preparation at its finest. Each course will be served directly to you from the kitchen. To reserve a spot at the Chef’s Bar, you purchase your reservation online, paying in advance for your seat. Your space is reserved for the entire night as this is meant to be a two to three hour dining experience. You may choose a wine pairing to accompany your meal or choose to order a cocktail or two from their new full liquor bar.
Both bars will have plugs near every seat for cell phone charging.
Once you walk past the bar and to the right of the kitchen is another dining area which is a bit more private than the front area. The design helps to make the space feel more intimate than just a big open room and will help cut down on noise giving diners a more enjoyable experience.
The plan is to add to the existing tile flooring and run it throughout the rest of the space, as they were able to order the exact flooring to match.
Those of you who remember the original IL Ritorno space, know that there was just one unisex bathroom and almost always a wait. Not anymore, there will now be two unisex bathrooms in an alcove behind the second dining space. I know I am excited about this! Before there was really no where to stand to wait that was not in the way.
To the right of the bathrooms, there will be an intimate private dining room that can seat up to 14. It will have its own sound system separate from the restaurant to accommodate music preference and cut down on noise. Separation from the restaurant will be by a sliding barn style door. This room can be reserved with a $250 deposit that will apply towards the bill at the end of the night. So essentially it is a wash, but guarantees the space for you.
In the very back of the restaurant there is another private dining room for larger parties up to 36 people. It will also have its own sound system and will be closed off by a regular door for maximum privacy. This space is quite nice and carries through the exposed brick from the front of the restaurant. This room can be reserved for a $250 fee. That is a fee for the space and does not apply towards any food or drink.
IL Ritorno is currently accepting reservations for parties for the upcoming holiday season and vow that they will be open and ready to go!
They are almost completely staffed for the opening. They do have four positions for the back of the house to fill: two line cooks and two prep cooks, but the front of the house is good to go and they retained almost all of their former employees.
Personally I am thrilled to see the progress. It doesn’t look pretty now, but it can certainly give you an idea of what to expect. IL Ritorno is my favorite restaurant in town and I have always made no bones about that and now it will be bigger and better! And I can order my favorite cocktails. Congratulations to Chef David, Erica and the whole IL Ritorno team!
Check out the blueprints below for a better overview. The front door is at the bottom of the picture.
- Readers Rating
- Rated 5 stars
5 / 5 (7 Reviewers)
- Your Rating
- IL Ritorno
- Italian, Modern Italian, Northern Italian
- Mon - Sat 5:00pm - 10:00pm
- View menu
- Take Reservations: Yes!
- 449 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33701, USA
Northern Italian food with a modern flair.
- Best Italian Food in St. Pete, Best Italian Restaurant Downtown St Pete, Best Northern Italian Restaurant in St Petersburg, Best Restaurant in Downtown St Pete, Best Restaurants in St Pete, Best Restaurants in St Petersburg, Downtown St Petersburg Restaurants, Il Ritorno, Il Ritorno Downtown St Petersburg, Il ritorno expansion, IL Ritorno St. Pete, Restaurants Downtown St Petersburg FL, Restaurants Downtown St. Petersburg, St Pete Foodies, St Petersburg Foodies, St Petersburg Foodies News
Written by Lori Brown
Founder of St. Petersburg Foodies & The Largest Happy Hour List Ever.
Culinary Institute of America "DISH" Member.
I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of my life. But would never want to live anywhere else besides St Petersburg. What an amazing thriving city we have!
I have owned my own businesses, and in my past careers I have set sales records in Pharmaceutical Sales and I'm a top performer in Real Estate.
I am a University of Florida graduate with a degree in Business Finance and love living in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg. I am mom to a son in college (Noah), long-haired female chihuahua (Lola), and a leopard gecko (Leo).... I think he's a boy. (Kevin kind of stole my dog though. He calls her his "Puppy".)
I'm also a foodie that loves to cook, and eat out at great restaurants. Years ago, I even had my own food store (with my friend Lisa) in the location where Jimmy John's currently resides on 4th Street North just south of 9th Avenue North called Weekday Gourmet. I've also been to Napa and Sonoma on wine vacations eight times.
Kevin and I used to go out 4 - 5 nights a week and write reviews on our own timelines. Because of this, I am always asked by people where they should go, what they should order, etc. When we created the group it just seemed natural since we were already doing that. I love to write and take photos, so it just all works.
Life couldn't be better!
View all posts by: Lori Brown
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- September 22, 2022 Delectable Down Home Mexican Eats at Martha’s
There’s many times in our Facebook Restaurant Reviews Group when I see people requesting “Just regular Mexican food, and none of that darn fancy stuff!” Martha’s is your ticket. There’s nothing elegant, no fusion, or frilly plating. (We’ll talk about the décor later.) It’s just darn good Mexican food made and served by Mexicans. There’s Tex-Mex too as most diners expect this when they go to a “Mexican” restaurant. They are open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 10 am to 8:30 pm. Breakfast items are available all day. I went three times for lunch, once with a friend, and the other times solo. Everything is made in-house including the chips and salsa, which is where we started. The salsa is mild-to-medium, flavorful and light. It’s nice and tomato-y and seasoned nicely. The chips were hot and fresh out of the fryer and lightly salted. For my first go-round I went with two traditional Mexican street tacos and a Tinga empanada. The traditional style tacos have a soft corn tortilla, meat, cilantro and onions. They do also offer American-style with a soft flour tortilla topped with lettuce, cheese and tomato. There are no hard shell corn tortillas here, but ironically, Martha’s is located behind a Taco Bell, which is the inventor of the pre-formed hard taco shell. (I betcha didn’t know that.) Since I was going classic, I decided to go all the way and start with a Suadero, which in Mexican cuisine in this case was a thin cut of pork between the belly and the leg. (It can also be beef cut from the intermediate part of the cow.) My other taco was Al Pastor, which is another popular Mexican pork street food brought to the region by Lebanese immigrants based on their lamb shawarma. The Tinga empanada is shredded chicken in a tomato and chile sauce, and other ingredients. It was good, but instead of a wheat-flour based pastry shell it had a corn-based dough, which is a texture like a tamale, but fried. It’s not bad. I’m just used to the other style. My friend went with the ever-so-popular Quesabirria Tacos. They come in threes or singles, so he got two. Most items on the menu are like this – you can get a plate of three, or order in singles. He also got the Tinga empanada. He said the tacos were great, and overall loved the place so much that he’s been back twice as well. The sauces were quite good too, which brings me to the special “Spicy Red Sauce” that is served only by request. I read a Google review that said to be sure to request it, so I did. Warning: Only request this if you enjoy super spicy like I do. I had sweat on the top of my head, and dripping down my neck. For me, this is a good thing. It may not be for you. Even thought it’s “rojo”, the color is more orange, so I thought it might be habanero-based, but I was told it’s made with arbol chiles, and those suckers are hot too. On my second visit I was in the mood for a big fat burrito packed with flavor, so I went with the “Mexican Sausage”, which is what they call Chorizo on the menu. It was a fiesta in my mouth. The flour tortilla was perfectly browned on the outside, and packed with sausage, cheese, lettuce and tomato on the inside. This burrito cures all hunger ills. As if that wasn’t already enough food, and it was – I needed to get another item for a more complete review. Corn is such a major component of Mexican cuisine that I ordered the Esquites, which is Mexican street corn off the cob. Elote is the Mexican street corn on the cob, and they have this too. The Esquites comes in a cup and is prepared with mayonnaise, cheese, chile powder, and lime for a fun flavorful side dish. On my third visit I dined on ground beef enchiladas with red sauce that’s also topped with cheese and lettuce, and comes with rice and beans. The enchiladas were savory and tangy, and spiced ground beef is just so good. The sauce was mild and tasty. I found it interesting that they fold the tortillas instead of rolling them. I like that the beans had both puréed and whole beans. They were nothing fancy, but tasted good enough that I ate them all. The rice was your basic stuff, which I didn’t finish. I started this lunch with some chips and queso that was pretty good. The interior has a tiki theme as that used to be what the space held. One of the signs at one entrance to the plaza still reads “Tiki”, so when you see that, you’re in the right place. The service is fast and friendly, the food is really good, and it’s worth the drive to Kenneth City. Alcohol is limited to beer.
- September 21, 2022 10 Best Wings in St. Petersburg FL 2022
First, A Little “Wingstory” I’ve been bingeing on food history, and gorging myself on culinary education for the past couple of years, and the more I learn and experience, the more I find out about disagreements and controversy everywhere. Should you use the water pan or not in your Weber Smoking Mountain Cooker? Chili with or without beans? What’s the best pizza dough recipe? In this case, it’s about who invented Buffalo wings. If you couldn’t care less, then just skip down to the list like half of the readers already did. (By the way, it’s not a ranking. They are listed in random order.) If you like a good food story, then keep reading. Buffalo wings were invented in 1964 in Buffalo, New York. The Anchor Bar claims to have invented them. Some feel this is dubious because the bar specialized in Italian food. Also, three different people, two of them owners and one an employee, all have a different story of how they originated. Even the husband and wife original owners can’t agree. The most popular story is that their son’s friends stopped in late one night with the drunk-munchies, and didn’t want the regular Italian fare, and asked for something off the menu. Mom, Teressa Bellissimo, thought about the “useless” chicken wings order that they received by accident that day, and decided to discard the tip, and separate the drumettes, and flats, fry them up, and then toss in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and butter. Ta-Da! Buffalo Wings are spontaneously invented! To this day they have a sign saying “Home of the Original Buffalo Chicken Wings”. Another story goes that John Young, an African-American, actually invented Buffalo wings before the Anchor Bar. Back then the chicken wing was considered a throwaway part of the chicken, and they also were only sold as a full wing that included the drumette, the flat and the tip. John Young‘s Wings and Things started selling chicken wings in 1963, a year before the Bellissimos claim to have invented them. SIDE NOTE ON PRICES: Hand-written notes of Young’s from 1963 show that chicken wings cost the restaurant 25¢ a pound back then. A local restaurteur tells me about prices today. “It fluctuates a lot, but it’s typically no lower than $2/lb, and lives in that range until Super Bowl, where it peaks around $3.25 lb. During the height/peak price of the pandemic they were at $4.50/lb. We took them off the menu when they hit $3.50/lb. The fluctuation is typically completely related to demand from sports bars and pizza places during football and basketball season. Come April, it starts to go down after March Madness.” So, do we have black people’s food being appropriated by white people, albeit Italian-Americans? An argument could be made either way. John Young was selling chicken wings in Buffalo before the Bellissimos. Back then, more well-off people did not eat chicken wings. They were considered throw-away parts of the chicken, but poorer people would eat them because they were more affordable. However, Young’s were different than the Bellissimo’s in a couple of ways. The Bellissimos made them in the way we still think of Buffalo Wings today—separated flats and drumettes, and hot sauce with butter, amongst other ingredients. John Young left the wings intact, including the tip. He had his own sauce called Mambo Sauce which is completely different than Buffalo wing sauce. There’s a myriad of more details to the full story, but that’s a sum up of this story, and a warm up for our list of the best wings in St. Pete. 10 Best Buffalo Wings & Chicken Wings in St. Pete Wings remain one of the hottest food items, literally and figuratively—proper use of the word, ‘literally’ (you’re welcome)—and St. Pete’s eateries are happy to oblige. The list order is random. (I actually put the names into an automated randomizer.) There are other publishers of “best of lists” that do not actually go to the establishment and actually eat the food. They just surf the web collecting information, and downloading photos, or emailing the restaurant for them. We think those types of lists are crap. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it a lot—from national and local publishers. We are also aware of a local publisher that offers paid placement in best-of-lists. There is no paid placement here. It’s ridiculous that I need to say this, but yes … WE ATE ALL OF THESE WINGS, AND WENT TO ALL OF THESE PLACES, AND THESE ARE ALL ST. PETE FOODIES PHOTOS. Most of the places listed offer different versions of their wings. We are featuring one or two of each. Here are the 10 Best Wings in St. Pete for 2022 Engine No. 9 56 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N St. Petersburg, FL 33705 (727) 623-0938 Engine No.9 Website We always see people raving all over social media about the Sriracha Wings at Engine No.9, and it’s for good reason. Roam Restaurant 3405 34th St N St. Petersburg, FL 33713 (727) 346-5242 Roam Facebook Roam’s wings come with either candy sauce or herb buffalo. We opted for the more traditional route of herb buffalo. These wings are perfectly crispy and fried to perfection and are undoubtedly some of the best in town. The spice from the buffalo sauce was idyllic for heat babies like Abby, but still bursting with herby buffalo flavor. Harry’s Beach Bar at The Sirata Beach Resort 5300 Gulf Blvd St Pete Beach, FL 33706 (727) 363-5125 Harry’s Website From Lori’s write-up: “Harry’s has been voted as having the best wings on St Pete Beach, so no question, we had to try them. We were going to just get them with buffalo sauce, but then our server said we had to try the Signature Sirata Sauce which is a mixture of Boom Boom and sriracha. As soon as I heard that…I was totally in. They are super saucy and absolutely delicious. I highly recommend these wings and that sauce is a must. Completely craveable.” The […]
- September 21, 2022 St Petersburg Foodies’ Downtown Happy Hour List September 2022 UPDATED
Happy Hour Food & Drink List for Downtown, The Edge District and The Grand Central District *Please note for purposes of this list we consider Downtown up to 22nd Ave N and to 22nd Ave S out to The Edge District at 9th St (MLK Jr. St). The Edge District is also included in this list but has its own heading after Downtown. The Grand Central District also has its own heading and is after the Edge District List. This list is sorted alphabetically by districts. First Downtown, next the Edge District and then the Grand Central District are broken out at the bottom with their own headings. **Please note that while we try to keep this list up to date, some items may have changed. You can help us keep this list updated by letting us know of any changes to it by contacting us here. Thank you so much in advance!** Click here to see Happy Hours for Gulfport, Pasadena and Tyrone Click here to see Happy Hours for St Pete Beach and Pass-a-Grille Food + Drink Downtown St Petersburg *SPONSORED* Renzo’s (727) 851-9983 104 2nd St S St. Petersburg, FL 33701 Renzo’s Website From left to right: Chicken Cutlet Milanese, Albacore Tuna Salad, and Prosciutto Croquettes are just a few of many great happy hour items. Daily – 4pm to 6pm $4 House Wines $5 Sangria & Draft Beers Prosecco, and Aperitivos, Featuring Cigar City Gose and Jai Alai, Monkey Fist IPA, Stella Artois, and Funky Budha $6 Cocktails Traditional Aperitivos & Digestifs inspired by our Italian and Argentine roots, plus Margaritas, Mojitos and Caipirinhas Tapas and Montaditos Small bites and finger food made to order starting at $3. See our new Tapas and Montaditos Menu *2nd & Second (727) 388-1340 201 2nd Ave N St Petersburg, FL 33701 2nd & Second Website Everyday 8am – 4pm $2.50 Bud & Bud Light, $5 House Wines, $5 Well Liquors *400 Beach Seafood & Tap House (727) 896-2400 400 Beach Dr. NE St Petersburg, FL 33701 400 Beach Website Mon – Fri 3pm – 6pm: $1 off draft beer $8 wines by the glass $8 signature cocktails 1/2 off Sommelier Selected Sparkling wine by the glass and bottle: Crémant de Alsace Antoine Muller Crémant de Bourgogne JCB N.69 Rose Rose Sparkling Planet Oregon Franciacorta Brut Bellavista Italy Champagne Brut Nicolas Feuillatte Bites: $2 oysters $10 Bacon and Cheese Smashburger $10 Bolognese $20 pick three charcuterie boards Corkage Fee: $15/bottle *Acropolis Greek Taverna (727) 823-1010 515 Central Ave St Petersburg, FL 33701 Acropolis Website Daily 3pm – 7pm: 1/2 Price Drafts, House Wines, Well Liquors, & Signature Cocktails. All Day Everyday: 2 for 1 house Sangrias & Margaritas Other Specials: Monday 4pm – close: $5 Top Shelf Martinis Tuesday: 1/2 price appetizers and hookah Wednesday 4pm – 11pm: 1/2 price wine bottles or glasses Thirsty Thursdays $5 cocktails, whiskey, beer and wine all day 11am – 2pm Saturday & Sunday: $15 bottomless mimosas & Bloody Marys *Angelo’s (727) 623-9018 536 1st Ave N St Petersburg, FL 33701 Angelo’s Website Mon-Fri 4pm-10pm Sat-Sun 10am-10pm All beers range from $2 – $4 $2.50 single well liquor drinks $5.00 double well liquor drinks *The Avenue Eat + Drink (727) 851-9531 330 1st Ave S St Petersburg, FL 33701 The Avenue Website Mon-Fri 4pm – 7pm $5 wells, wines, bubbles & drafts $7 Avenue specialty cocktails 1/2 off select bites Click here for Daily Specials *Bacchus (727) 258-8566 124 2nd Ave NE St Petersburg, FL 33701 Bacchus Website Daily 4pm – 7pm $4.50/glass house selected sparkling, white, rose, red or beer $4.50 hummus, mediterranean olives, pickled vegetables, roasted nuts, olive tapenade or petite planche du chef (chef’s daily selection of cheese and charcuterie) *Bar Chinchilla (727) 827-7742 439 1st Ave N St.Petersburg, FL 33701 Bar Chinchilla Website Daily 4pm – 7pm $1 off craft drafts 1/2 off select glasses of wine – the list changes daily *Beans and Barlour (727) 440-4540 407 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33701 Beans & Barlour Website No current specials *BellaBrava (727) 895-5515 200 Beach Dr. NE St Petersburg, FL 33701 BellaBrava Website Daily open – 7pm: $3.49 Bud Light, craft & imported beer $3.99 on all well drinks (upcharges for two liquor drinks or Bloody Mary’s) $6 6oz House Wine, $8 9oz House Wine $6 White or Red Sangria Corkage Fee: $15/bottle *the bier boutique (727) 827-2691 465 7th Ave N St. Petersburg, FL 33701 the bier boutique Website Tues – Fri 3:30pm – 6:30pm $2 off all drinks & $5 Loaded Tots Other Daily Specials Monday 3:30pm – close (Dine in Only) Half price all beer, wine & liquor Tuesday – $3 Florida cans & $6 sliders Everyday 11am – 3:30pm: 25% off for service industry *The Big Catch at Salt Creek (727) 289-8080 1500 2nd St S St Petersburg, FL 33701 The Big Catch Website Daily from 3pm – 6pm $3 wells, wine & drafts All Day $5 Bar Bites Menu (changes regularly) $3 Bud Light drafts and $5 margaritas *Birch & Vine’s Lantern Lane Lounge (727) 896-1080 340 Beach Dr NE St Petersburg, FL 33701 The Birch & Vine Website Mon – Fri 4pm – 7pm 1/2 off all signature cocktails, all wine glasses $10 and under, red & white sangria $3 selet beer – Mich Ultra, Bud Light, Miller Light, Peroni bottles & Yuengling draft Corkage Fee: $20/bottle *Brick & Mortar (727) 822-6540 539 Central Ave St Petersburg, FL 33701 Brick & Mortar Facebook Page Corkage Fee: $15/bottle *The Canopy at The Birchwood (727) 896-1080 340 Beach Dr Ne St Petersburg, FL 33701 The Canopy Website Mon – Fri 4pm – 7pm 1/2 off all signature cocktails, all wine glasses $10 and under, red & white sangria $3 selet beer – Mich Ultra, Bud Light, Miller Light, Peroni bottles & Yuengling draft Wed 7pm – 10pm Ladies Night: 1/2 off rose *Cassis St Pete (727) 827-2927 170 Beach Dr. NE. St Petersburg, FL 33701 Cassis Website Tues – Fri 4pm – 7pm, Tues 4pm – 11pm: $2.50 drinks: select […]
- September 20, 2022 Get your BURGer fixings at The Burg Bar & Grill
The Burg Bar & Grill is a local’s spot dishing out an irresistible menu of bar food favorites with a Greek flair. This neighborhood spot in St. Pete brings the chill, laid back and casual atmosphere that everyone loves. The idea behind The Burg Bar & Grill was to have a place where you can walk in and have a great BURGer and cold draft beer in St. PetersBURG. The burger section of the menu is pretty impressive with some unique toppings. The entire menu provides plenty of yummy options so everyone will be satisfied. Grab a seat at the bar, inside at a table or outside and explore the menu of burgers, sandwiches, Greek specialities, daily specials and more. Starting with something light and refreshing is always a great idea. Since the menu has a Greek influence, we thought the Horiatiki (village salad) would be a nice taste of that. The Horiatiki salad comes with tomatoes, cucumbers, Greek olives, feta cheese, pepperoncini, onions, beets, green peppers, oregano, olive oil, and balsamic dressing. For such a simple salad, it was great. The feta and balsamic dressing deserve a shout out because together this duo was absolutely delicious. How does one sit at a bar without ordering wings? I will never know and the wings at The Burg Bar & Grill are outstanding. Choose how you want them to be smothered from their list: mild, medium, hot, nuclear, bbq, sweet Thai chili, garlic parmesan, blackened or jerk. I went with medium for a little spice and it was perfect. If you’re like me, you’re okay with getting a little messy as long as it’s worth it. I’m here to tell you that these wings are finger licking good. Under the Burg Specialities portion of the menu, you’ll find a Philly Steak & Cheese right at the top and you really should just stop right there and order it. I’m telling you, this giant hoagie bun is packed with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, tender Philly steak, and topped with your choice of perfectly melted, ooey gooey cheese. We did provolone and it was absolute perfection. All sandwiches come with Burg chips, but we heard good things about the fries so we substituted that. The fries are house cut, salty, crispy, and greasy, just how everyone should love their fries. I’m not going to lie, I definitely did a little happy dance when I saw the Chicago Dog on the menu. Being born and raised there, I love a good Chicago style hot dog and not many places here know how to do it right. The Burg Bar & Grill does, thankfully. The Chicago Dog comes with onion, tomato, sport peppers, pickles, celery salt, yellow mustard and relish. The best part? The sport peppers and relish. Also, don’t add ketchup, ever. All I needed was a Cubs win and I would’ve been the happiest gal at the bar. The waffle fries were my favorite. They’re thick and starchy, perfectly seasoned and come out steaming hot. The moment you’ve been waiting for, a burger. Seriously, all of the burgers on the menu are quite unique. Kevin suggested The Burg (Gyro Feta Burger) which comes with gyro meat, house made tzatziki and a thick slice of feta. Another fan favorite is the Double Grilled cheeseburger which comes in between two grilled cheese bacon sandwiches. I was drawn to the Western BBQ Burger with an 8 oz burger topped with cheddar cheese, green chili-pepper, bacon, an onion ring and then drizzled with BBQ sauce. After just one bite of this hearty burger, I can certainly say I was very, very happy with my choice. The burger itself was juicy and of course the oozy cheddar, smothered BBQ sauce and crispy onion ring really brought it to the next level. There’s something about fish tacos…they just always do the trick, especially when they’re a special every Friday. An order comes with three corn tortillas packed with grilled mahi, avocado and a house made citrus slaw. Order a side of chipotle mayo to add a little zesty kick to these and you’ll be happy. The Burg chips that come with it are salty, crispy and easily addictive. I was going to end my review there, but as Sunday afternoon rolled around, I didn’t feel like cooking and I figured I can order from The Burg Bar & Grill for some savory comfort food while I watch the Bucs game. I’m so glad that I did because the Cuban sandwich with ham, pork, salami, Swiss, pickles, mustard and mayo was exactly what I needed to fight the Sunday scaries. The crusty, just-thin-enough Cuban bread and nearly perfect meat to toppings ratio was amazing. Again with the Burg chips, so crunchy and hard to stop eating. The Pita and Tzatziki starter was also very satisfying. The tzatziki was tangy and had a little kick to it. If you’re looking for a Greek starter while you wait for your burger, I would recommend ordering this. Not only was I craving their fries again, but when I noticed these Feta Fries I didn’t second guess it. Crispy fries topped with crumbled, salty feta cheese? I’m in! A savory lover’s dream come true. Not to exaggerate or anything, but if you haven’t been to The Burg Bar & Grill are you REALLY a local foodie? I mean they really do have an array of savory, greasy and yummy options that we all need sometimes, or all the time, you do you. For the perfect Football Sunday at the bar or weekday evening on the patio with friends, a visit to The Burg Bar & Grill is the way to go.
- September 19, 2022 Beach Drive’s Newest Eatery, Allelo Knocks it Out of the Park
Beach Drive has a new restaurant to delight locals and tourists alike. Allelo is serving up dishes inspired by the regions near the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, which leaves open a multitude of cuisines. Their name “comes from the word allelomimesis which is the phenomenon of a group, such as birds, coming together to form a flock. The idea of gathering is echoed throughout our menu where items are meant for sharing with friends.” The menu is focused on small, tapas-style shared plates with a selection of pastas, flatbreads and a few large-format dishes. Allelo is located in the spaces formerly occupied by Annata and Alto Mare, which were purchased from Kurt and Mary Cuccaro by Volet Hospitality Group, and local foodies Shawn and Jeanna Damkoehler. (The Cuccaro’s are still the owners of local iconic Italian marketplace, Mazzaro’s.) Note: Volet Hospitality and the Damkoehlers also purchased 400 Beach Taphouse one block north of Allelo from longtime restaurateur Steve Whestphal. We were delighted and honored to be invited to Allelo’s friends & family on September 15. They opened to the public this past Saturday on September 17, 2022. Everything was top-notch – the service, food, and atmosphere. This is one of those places where you can tell that the people working there are not just doing it to pay the bills. They’re there because they wholeheartedly love what they do. The East Coast Oysters were delectable and fresh. We loved the mignonette with this as it wasn’t the standard bitey type. It was smooth, mellow, and slightly sweet. The ROFE Lanzarote 2020 was the perfect accompaniment to the oysters. This was the first time we’ve seen a Txacolina on the sparkling wines section of the menu. We love this type of wine, but note that it is just lightly effervescent. It’s quite good, just don’t expect bubbles like you get from Champagne. The cheese and charcuterie was wonderful with the meats being made in house. In the top center, we have dreamy large swiped dollop of succulent ‘Nduja. There will be a different daily house selection of cheese and charcuterie that will include three cheeses and two meats, some of which will be cured in-house. The meatballs are special and unique. Instead of breadcrumbs, they have Freekeh. (I had to look it up. You should too.) Another cool thing about the meatballs is that they are elegant and rustic at the same time. I usually prefer a more rustic meatball over a fine soft one. Allelo’s had a fine texture to the meat, but also offered chunky bits of parsley, basil and garlic. They tasted fantastic, and the sauce was great too. The Raditatori lamb bolognese with Pecorino-Romano and parsley – The name of this pasta shape translates to radiator as that is what it resembles, and it has such an orgasmic mouthfeel. The dish was scrumptious. Eggplant – hummus, gigandes beans, citrus yogurt. This was really good, but it had tough competition from the meat and seafood dishes. Check out the cool little crosshatch scoring on the eggplant. Scampi – squid ink linguine. rock shrimp, broccolini, botarga, panko. This was the star dish of the night. (I had to look up botarga. You should to. If you do, then we’ll know you’re a true foodie.) Sommelier & GM, Michelle Richards pouring a very special wine – Black Slate Escaladei (Vi di la Vila) – a Spanish Grenache that grows in unique black volcanic soils and has long, hot summers. The taste was divine. As I said in the beginning, Allelo was a fantastic experience by all measurements. They have a top-notch team. We highly recommend them. Here are some outdoor shots, and the menu as well.
- September 2, 2022 Chicken Piccata with Grapefruit Recipe
Traditionally, lemon is the citrus utilized when making chicken piccata. However, we’re shaking things up with this recipe where grapefruit is implemented instead. In September in Florida, a great deal of citrus is in season and that includes grapefruit. I don’t find grapefruit frequently used in savory recipes, but do see it quite a bit in desserts and salads. So when Lori mentioned that she made a chicken piccata with grapefruit years ago that was outstanding, I had to have a stab at it. This recipe is very similar to any other piccata recipe. The main (and only) difference in this instance is that we are using fresh grapefruit juice instead of fresh lemon juice. I find that the grapefruit makes the end result just a touch more sweet than the original recipe – it’s very subtle. When sourcing your grapefruit from somewhere like Rollin’ Oats where the organic produce is plentiful, seek out fruits that are very ripe and juicy. Avoid under ripe grapefruit that will feel more firm in texture. If the idea of grapefruit in place of lemon is too farfetched for you, perhaps ease into things by only using 1/2 lemon and 1/2 grapefruit. Chicken breasts are what I typically use for this recipe as I find them to be more convenient and easier to work with. If you’re looking to up the flavor ante, give chicken thighs a try instead. Chicken Piccata with Grapefruit Swap in a juicy grapefruit for the traditional lemon in this easy Chicken Piccata dish that is certain to satisfy all. 2 chicken breasts (Halved so that you have four pieces)1 cup flour2 grapefruits (Juice of 1 and the other cut into wedges.)6 tbsp butter4 tsp olive oil1/2 cup vegetable stock1/4 cup parsley (Fresh, roughly chopped)1 tsp salt (Plus more to taste)pepper (to taste) One at a time, place halved chicken breasts under plastic wrap and pound or roll until thin. Place on a plate and season with salt and pepperDredge each chicken piece in flour and shake off the excess. Heat a skillet or dutch oven (I like to use a dutch oven for the high walls in case of splatter) over medium high heat and add 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tsp oil. Add two chicken pieces at a time and cook for four minutes on each side until browned and coked through (about 8 minutes).Add 2 more tbsp of butter and remaining oil and cook last two pieces of chicken just as we did the first two. Remove from heat and turn down skillet to medium. Pour in stock, capers, juice of one grapefruit and grapefruit slices. Allow to simmer and then add chicken pieces back in and cook for another five minutes. Taste and season as needed.Remove chicken, add remaining two tbsp of butter to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Spoon reduced sauce and capers over chicken, garnish with parsley and serve. Dinner, Main CourseItalianAbby Allen Recipes, Chicken Piccata
- August 1, 2022 Beer-Battered Fish Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa Recipe
Tacos are a love language for a lot of folks. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why the handheld treat appeals to the masses, but I have a few guesses. There are so many taco renditions out there that you’re bound to fall in love with at least one. One of my personal favorites is Baja style which originated in none other than Baja California, Mexico. This type of taco is usually comprised of a white and flakey fish, often fried, a cabbage slaw of sorts and usually some kind of crema/sauce. This taco recipe was of course inspired by the refreshing Baja style taco, but I’ve added even more excitement with a bright mango-avocado salsa. Both fruits are in season in Florida during the month of August and Rollin’ Oats has plenty of them waiting for you – organic, ripe, juicy and delicious. Don’t limit the use of this salsa to just these tacos – have it as an appetizer with chips, spoon it on a salad, etc. I have found that we humans are quite particular when it comes to our tortilla shell preference. Flour or corn? Soft shell or do we want crunch? Street style or perhaps a bit larger? There are so many questions. Because of this, I’ve left the tortilla preference totally up to you and Rollin’ Oats has a variety of shells all over the board for you to pick from. Flour, corn, hard shell or even grain-free (made by Siete and they’re fantastic). As for the Cod, you’ll find a ten ounce bag of wild-caught in the frozen section at the back of Rollin’ Oats which proved to be incredible-tasting. If you aren’t a fan of cod or can’t find it, any flaky fish will suffice. Beer-Battered Fish Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa These are going to be your summer go-to taco for any occasion. Don't limit the use of the salsa to just this dish – it's great on salads and as an appetizer on its own too. Mango-Avocado Salsa1 avocado (diced in small cubes)1 mango (diced in small cubes)1/2 medium onion (diced)1 lime1 jalapeno (seeds and stem discarded, minced)2 tbsp cilantro (fresh, roughly chopped)salt (as needed)Chipotle Mayo1/4 cup mayo2 tsp liquid from can of chipotle chiles1/2 lime (juice of only)1/2 tsp salt (more as needed)Cabbage Slaw1 cup red cabbage (finely chopped/shredded)1 cup green cabbage (finely chopped/shredded)1/2 lime (juice of only)1/2 tsp salt (plus more as needed)pepper (to taste)Beer-Battered Cod & Taco Assembly10 oz Cod (preferably wild caught and cut into 2-3" pieces)2 cups vegetable oil2 cups flour (all purpose will do, divided)12 oz light beer (I used Cigar City Jai Low)1 tsp baking powder1 tsp cayenne2 tbsp salttortilla shells (flour, corn, grain-free – whichever you prefer…)cilantro (chopped)lime wedgestortilla shells of choice Mango-Avocado SalsaCombine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste and salt as needed and then refrigerate until ready for taco assembly.Chipotle MayoWhisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and season as needed. Refrigerate.Cabbage SlawStir all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Taste and season as needed and also pop into the fridge until later.Beer-Battered Cod & Taco AssemblyIn a medium bowl combine 1 1/4 cup flour, beer, baking powder and one tbsp salt. Whisk until smooth without chunks. Add remaining flour, salt and cayenne to another medium bowl and combine. Pat cod pieces with a paper towel and season with a pinch or two of salt.Toss cod pieces in dry flour and cayenne mix and then dredge in batter. Set dredged pieces on a cooling rack set over parchment to catch the drippings.Heat oil (it should be 2-3 inches thick – if not, add more) over medium high heat until 350-375 degrees (you can use a deep fat thermometer for precise temps). Add fish pieces (you can do this in two batches) and allow to fry for 3-4 minutes.Flip and fry for another three minutes until cod is cooked through and golden brown in color. Remove and allow to cool on a parchment-lined plate.To assemble the tacos, add a spoonful of the cabbage slaw, 1-2 pieces of fish, salsa, drizzle of chipotle mayo and cilantro and lime wedges as needed. Main Course, Main DishAmerican, MexicanBeer-Battered Fish Tacos, Best Taco Recipe, Fish Taco Recipe
Liven up a beautiful seared and sliced piece of steak with a zingy tomato and charred corn salsa. Steak, tomatoes and corn are of course the stars of this show. Tomatoes and corn are in season in Florida currently so you’re likely to find an abundance most everywhere. There are no strict guidelines with this recipe – just think of it as your guide. Utilize any kind of tomato (just as long as it’s ripe) and cut of steak that you’d like and feel free to go wild with additional veggies and herbs in the salsa. The only ingredient that I suggest sticking strictly too is the corn on the cob because we are grilling it prior to cutting it off of the cob and mixing into the salsa. As far as steak is concerned though, I personally recommend a NY Strip or a Ribeye for this recipe. Filets are great of course, but you’ll probably need a couple to feed more than two people. Rollin’ Oats always has a fantastic selection of organic and pasture-raised steaks available. The quality is premium of course. If you have the equipment, I recommend a sous vide bath for your steak prior to quickly hitting the hot grill for a nice sear. For a medium rare finish, we usually cook our steak (typically a NY Strip or Tenderloin) at 129/130 for at least one hour. The result is a perfectly tender cut of steak that nearly melts in your mouth. Grilled Steak with Tomato & Charred Corn Salsa This simple summer steak situation is your answer to an evening of stress free outside dinner party hosting. Gilled Corn4 ears of corn1 tbsp olive oilSteak 1 1lb steak (Like NY Strip or Ribeye)2 tomatoes (Medium in size and ripe, like Roma's – diced.)1 red onion (Smaller in size, or 1/2 of one medium in size. Diced.)1 jalapeno (Minced)1 lime2 tsp olive oil2 cups arugula1 lemon4 garlic cloves (Smashed, outer skin removed and discarded.)2 tsp salt (Plus more to taste) Charred CornPreheat your oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and evenly bush oil onto corn and season well with a few pinches of salt.Roast corn for 40-50 minutes, or until corn begins to char. Turn corn carefully every 10-15 minutes. Allow corn to cool completely. Then cut kernels off of the cob and reserve in a bowl until ready to make your salsa.Steak & AssemblyIn a medium bowl combine charred corn kernels, tomato, onion, jalapeno, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, juice of one lime and 1 teaspoon of salt. Gently stir to combine, taste and season as needed. Set aside until steak is ready. In another medium bowl, toss arugula with juice of one lemon and a pinch of salt. Set aside.If you're going to sous vide your steak, do that first (even before the corn). I suggest a temperature of 129-130F for 1-2 hours for medium rare (skip this step if only grilling your steak).Preheat grill to 500F. Set a medium cast iron skillet on the grill and add remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and add in smashed garlic cloves. Pat steak dry and season top side liberally with salt. Grill seasoned side-down 4-5 minutes. Season other side of steak with salt, flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes for a nice medium rare.Allow steak to rest, slice and serve topped with lemon-dressed arugula and salsa. Dinner, Main Course, Main DishAmericanAbby Allen Recipes, Grass Fed Steak Recipes
- June 2, 2022 Smash Burgers with Kimchi Mayo Recipe
Burgers – they come in all different sizes, dressed will all sorts of accessories stacked in many different ways. My favorite one of all though? A smash burger. In essence, it’s a burger in its most simplistic form with everything it needs to be a winner without going over the top. Ultra thin beef patties smashed and cooked on a ripping hot surface with crispy edges…it’s exactly as good as it sounds. Smash burgers (or often Smashburgers) were introduced to me by way of a podcast with George Motz. George has been referred to as “the foremost authority on hamburgers.” He says that all you need is a patty with American cheese and onions smashed on a hot griddle and served on a bun – simple and perfect, just as it should be. With this recipe though we are spicing things up a touch with help from kimchi and gochujang. There’s a lot of really great kimchi out there. Mother In Law’s is usually what I’m grabbing at the grocery store more times than not. Quality is superb and I have found that it’s available at a number of grocers, including Rollin’ Oats which is where I pick up mine. They also have Mother In Law’s gochugang available to make shopping for this recipe a breeze. Because the three ounce patties are small (which I prefer – much more manageable), a double smash burger is encouraged, but not necessary. Regardless of the number of patties though, a good bun is recommended. I’m a sucker for Brioche buns but if those aren’t available, Dave’s Killer Bread Burger Buns to the rescue. Smash Burgers with Kimchi Mayo Smash Burgers – I just can't get enough. This rendition uses kimchi in place of onion and a gochujang-mayo for a nice punch. Burgers and Assembly12 oz ground beef (Preferably grass-fed/organic like Simply Balanced at Rollin' Oats.)1/4 cup kimchi (Roughly chopped)4 slices cheese (Use any you like or totally omit all together. I use any organic American.)4 burger Buns (I recommend Waverly Brioche and Dave's Killer Bread – both at Rollin' Oats.)1/4 white onion (Sliced into thin half-moons.)1/4 cup Fresh Herbs (Roughly chopped. Use any you have on hand like cilantro, basil or mint.)2 tbsp oil (Like avocado, vegetable or something with a higher smoke point. You can use butter here too.)saltKimchi Mayo1/2 cup mayonaise1/4 cup kimchi (Chopped well. I use Mother In Law's brand.)1/2 lime (Juice only)1/4 cup gochujang (Add more if you're into spice.) Kimchi MayoCombine all ingedients in a small bowl until mixed well. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed with more gochujang, lime, salt, etc.Burgers and AssemblyPreheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Tear off another sheet of parchment and cut it into four even squares. Divide ground beef into four equal sized balls. If you have a kitchen scale definitely use it – each ball should be about 3oz and rolled together loosely.Heat a well-seasoned skillet of your choice over medium high heat and oil. When skillet is hot add one burger ball to hot skillet, season with a pinch of salt and lay one of the parchment squares on top. Using a spatula, smash and flatten the burger as best as you can. Remove and discard parchment and cook burger for 2 minutes – edges should be browning. Flip and repeat on second side.Cover skillet and melt cheese on top of the patty, remove from heat and set aside on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining burger patties. When all are finished, warm in the oven for a few minutes.To assemble the burgers toast your buns while the patties cook (if toasting). Spread a spoonful of the kimchi mayo on each inside part of the bun. Assemble starting with the burger patty (or patties, if opting for a double), then top with onion, more kimchi and chopped fresh herbs. Dinner, Main Course, SandwichAmerican, KoreanAbby Allen Recipes, Grass Fed Burgers
- May 2, 2022 Spiced Melon Panzanella Salad Recipe
Panzanella is a Tuscan chopped salad typically made with stale bread, tomatoes and onion and is served mostly during the summer months. The toasted bread cubes sop up the beautiful tomato juices, olive oil and lemon which makes for one incredibly satisfying bite. Feel free to use any bread of your liking -Focaccia, Brioche and Dave’s Killer Bread (as you know, this is one of my favorite brands at Rollin’ Oats) are all wonderful options for your bread cubes. One of the things I love most about this salad is that it has heft, while also remaining vibrant and fresh. Because of those characteristics, it’s a great salad for both a satisfying lunch/brunch entree or a bright pre-dinner appetizer. The combination of ingredients meshes extremely well together. Sweet and spicy Cantaloupe, fresh basil and mozzarella, crispy bread, savory prosciutto and a punch of citrus and olive oil – it’s extremely tough to go wrong. The crispy prosciutto is optional; however, it does add lovely salty and crunchy notes. At Rollin’ Oats you’ll find a three ounce package of Niman Ranch All Natural Prosciutto (currently on sale for $4.99). In Florida, Cantaloupe is in season April – June, so it’s usually quite easy to find during that time frame. Though if you’re looking to make the recipe at a time when cantaloupe is not available just simply use any ripe and juicy tomatoes that you can get your hands on. Spiced Melon Panzanella This salad has a split personality: it can pose as either a satisfying lunch or pre-dinner bite when served in smaller portions. 1 cantaloupe (Cut into 1-2" cubes)1/2 red onion (Sliced into thin half moons)8 oz mozzarella ball (Torn into irregular 1" pieces)2 cups bread (Any will do, like Italian loaf, foccacia, Dave's Killer Bread, etc. – torn into 1" irregular cubes)1/2 cup olive oil3 oz prosciutto (Optional)1 avocado (Sliced into small wedges)1/4 cup basil (Roughly chopped, plus more for garnish)1 lemon (Juiced)2 tsp salt2 tsp black pepper1 tsp crushed red pepper Preheat oven to 400F. Toss bread cubes in a large bowl with 1 tsp salt. Arrange in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes (you want bread cubes to be golden & crouton-like in texture). Remove from baking sheet and set aside.In a large bowl toss melon cubes with 2 tbsp olive oil, crushed red pepper, 1 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Refrigerate until ready to use. If using prosciutto, one slice at a time, place prosciutto slice between two paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds (or until crisp). Allow to cool and crumble in a small bowl. Repeat with remaining prosciutto slices.In a small bowl combine juice of one lemon and remaining oil, salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined.When you're ready to serve your Panzanella salad, add all ingredients except sliced avocado to a large bowl. Gently combine. Serve salad topped with avocado slices and more basil. Appetizer, Dinner, Main CourseItalianAbby Allen Recipes, Panzanella Salad Recipes, Spiced Melon Panzanella