Tucked away in an extravagant little nook sits Pelagia Trattoria, an underrated Italian cuisine masterpiece attached to the Renaissance Hotel at the International Plaza. I say “underrated” because truly the only people I hear singing Pelagia’s praises are my fellow genuine foodie friends. Though unluckily disguised as a luxury hotel eatery, Pelagia is so much more. It is quite simply, modern Italian fare in its most prestigious form. Forget heavy, meaty red sauces covering your standard penne. Put behind you overly breaded chicken, drenched in sauce and loaded with an ungodly amount of mozzarella. This indulgent paradise is “new age” Italian with all the frills, bells and whistles. With a knowledgeable and downright talented duo of chefs as well as a warm and capable set of servers, you can be sure to take pleasure in the Pelagia experience from beginning to end.
|Wait until you read about this plate of art.|
When I was recently invited to my favorite Italian spot in all of Tampa for a signature Spring menu debut, I knew I would be in for a night of amazingly delectable dining. That it was, my friends; for the second I stepped foot into the lavish, colorful dining room, I could sense the excitement from every fortunate guest in attendance. Once I was treated to a glass of wine, I sat down next to some friends, feeling ever so giddy for the first course to be served.
Out first was a cheese and charcuterie board loaded with a stellar selection of sharp, soft, and hard cheeses along with crostini, olives and meats. The icing on this meat and cheese plate? That would be the duck prosciutto, honeycomb and rare black walnuts. My goodness, I couldn’t decide what combination of scrumptious goods to devour first. With a single small bite of the prosciutto, I stared wide-eyed at my friend, Megan and grabbed the menu to verify what piece of heaven I had just eaten. A gourmet meat and cheese fanatic, this was one of the best medleys I’ve encountered yet.
Well, well, now what do we have here? A scary sea creature was now delivered to many frightened faces. Grilled Octopus with Chorizo Oil, Frisee and Blood Oranges sat before us, in all its intimidating glory. Having tried a rather tasty octopus dish recently, I wasn’t too bent out of shape. Digging right in, I found it to be so tender and with an excellent smoky flavor from the wood-burning grill. The tangy chorizo oil along with the juicy and tart blood oranges made this underwater monster one of my favorite plates of the night.
I have had serious luck with crab cakes lately. Pelagia’s Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Tomato Jam was no exception to this streak of good fortune. Was there even a teaspoon of filler in the massive mound of meat? I think not. Formed with the freshest, most delicate and sweet crab they could get their hands on, this beauty was just divine. The tomato jam added the right amount of tang and texture to the delightful cake. Garnished with bright green watercress and a drizzle of aioli, it was as pretty as it was scrumptious.
Up next…something I can’t tell you anything about. Allergic to anchovies (another story for another day), I was unable to try the Deconstructed White Anchovy and Radish Carpaccio stack. A stunning sight, I heard no complaints from those sitting next to me.
Perhaps the only salad my boyfriend has ever enjoyed…that would be their Grilled Pear and Watercress Salad with Maple Bacon, Bleu cheese and Cilantro Pesto. Quick side note- I am also allergic to pears (along with numerous other fruits-crazy, I know). But…I am also a risk taker. Yes, I had to. This salad of fresh greens, appropriately greasy (and crispy) bacon, beloved “moldy” cheese and grilled fruit didn’t stand a chance. So what if my lips got a bit puffy? This picture perfect salad had such an incredible mixture of fun textures and tastes-there was no way I could skip it. Washing the pear down with wine, I was back to “normal” (as normal as I get) in no time.
Pizza, you are my bad mood savior. Not just any old delivery pizza; I am a legitimate pizza snob. Though I didn’t need my spirits uplifted on this night, I was still ecstatic to get my crust, sauce and cheese grub on. Pelagia certainly satisfies my silly pizza standards. Their Sausage and Ricotta pizza was a knock-out of melty, saucy and crispy bliss. The ricotta, creamy and mild paired flawlessly to the moist and pungent Italian sausage. It was a pie made with amore!
|Photo courtesy "I Run for Wine"|
Finally, the tasting I had been waiting all night for. Porcini and Black Truffle Cream Cavatelli was dripping with decadence the moment it was served. I am a truffle aficionado but I mean how could one not fall passionately in love with that rich, earthy flavor? This pasta dish is one I would cry happy tears over, time and time again. I really cannot explain the luxuriousness of this impeccably executed creation.
Just when I thought I had maxed out my gorging abilities, our next course was presented. Squid Ink Linguine with Seared Jumbo Scallops and Blue Crab appeared beautiful and ready to take charge of my palate. I love squid ink pasta, in fact, I have a package in my pantry. If apprehensive, you need not me. With just a hint of uniqueness, it is subtly splendid. Topped off with gigantic, silky scallops and an abundance of fresh crab and you’ve got yourself a winner. The light white wine butter sauce allowed the noodles and seafood to take the show. I was thankful. The Pelagia chefs couldn’t have done better had they tried.
This evening affair was beginning to be a doozy for all but we weren’t done yet. There were still two spring menu tastings to be had. Florida Snapper with Charred Yellow Pepper Bisque and Organic Quinoa…what a magical number you were. Flaky and mild, this filet of fish was outstanding with the smooth and yummy bisque, sautéed spinach and grains. Adorned with watercress (new food trend, perhaps), it was a plate stealing a lot of camera attention.
At last, our final course of the night- Lamb T-bone with Minted Quinoa Tabouli and Juniper Berry Saba. Lamb is my second most loved land meat (Duck being #1) and this offering definitely did not disappoint. So luscious, I didn’t need to flex the least bit of hand muscle when cutting the glorious meat. Deep, meaty flavor had me closing my eyes with one bite. The reduced Saba did this amazing plate unnecessary favors with its bold bite.
Pelagia, you never cease to amaze me. The lengths at which the chefs go to create these world renowned dishes is beyond me. Every dish has that special addition, that meticulous final touch, that amazing “wonder” that will forever have me in awe. No exaggeration here, this place is as exceptional as I deem it, that is a promise. Thank you for everything Pelagia…and don’t ever hesitate to send more invites this way!