Donatello’s (Tampa)

Donatello on Urbanspoon

Day of the Week: Sunday, 10/21
Total Bill: $274.46 (before tip)
Breakdown: 2 drinks, 1 bottle of wine, 3 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 sides, 3 desserts
Pros: Amazing, fresh food, old-world charm, perfect portion sizes, good wine list.
Cons: No self-parking (valet only), no bartender working when we went.
Verdict: Worth every penny (even if we hadn’t had a gift certificate!).

She says:
I love pasta but Hubby is a lot less enthusiastic, so honestly we probably never would’ve tried Donatello’s if we hadn’t gotten a $100 gift certificate from the dealership when Hubby bought his new car earlier this year. I was hopeful but I really didn’t think Hubby would enjoy it too much, which dampened my enthusiasm. We were very pleasantly surprised.

When we first pulled up we were a little annoyed because the restaurant has no self-parking, but the valet attendant could not have been nicer, which made up for it. We were greeted at the front door by an older gentleman who welcomed us and shook our hands. The dining room was nearly empty (it was about 7:45), so we opted to eat at the bar. The bar has some real charm to it, with Venetian-style masks and tapestries on the wall. The dining room is…pink. Well, it looks pink because the linens are pink and the lights have a rosy hue. It’s not my favorite décor but I think their clientele skews a little older and that’s probably exactly what they like. If you give your customers what they want, I can’t fault you for that, even if it’s not my particular taste.

Service started out a little rocky. There was no bartender on duty, so our waiter had to make our drinks, which took a little while. Hubby ordered a drink with mango purée in it, but they were out of purée so he had to choose something else. Our cocktails were very good, though; I had the Donatello, which is Campari, Aperol, and a splash of Prosecco. Hubby had a strawberry basil martini. (Both drinks were $12.50.) While we were looking over the menu they brought out some delicious bread that was crusty but not hard.

After the slow start with the drinks, service picked up. Our waiter was really nice and took excellent care of us.

For our appetizers we ordered calamari fritti ($15.95), lumache farcite (snails with mushrooms baked in a garlic butter sauce, $17.95), and melon with prosciutto ($17.95). The calamari was very simply done but very well done. You could tell the calamari was very fresh and it wasn’t rubbery at all but it was firm. The highlight of the dish for me was definitely the marinara served on the side. Fresh, homemade, and very flavorful. The snails were amazing, some of the best I’ve had. The garlic butter sauce was very well balanced. The melon and prosciutto was a lovely presentation, with fresh, ripe melon and delicious, salty prosciutto.

Before our main dishes arrived we ordered a bottle of Flora Springs chardonnay ($58), which our waiter put on ice behind the bar for us and regularly refilled our glasses with.

For my main, I had penne puttanesca ($24.95), which is a tomato sauce with capers, olives, and anchovies. In most puttanesca you can only taste the capers and olives, but in this sauce you could really taste the anchovies. Best puttanesca I’ve had. The penne was perfectly cooked and the portion was generous without being overwhelming (half portions are also available for all pasta dishes).

Hubby had linguine al granchio (linguine with lump crab meat) in the white wine sauce ($37.95). I only had a bite of crab because Hubby seemed disinclined to share but what I tasted was delicious.

For our side dishes we had zucchine fritte (fried baby zucchini, $9.95) and funghi al salto (sauteed mushrooms, $12.95). The mushrooms were excellent but the zucchini was exceptional. The zucchini must have been freshly cut when we ordered because it was still firm. The zucchini is also served with a side of marinara (you can’t have too much of their marinara).

As you may have already figured out, I’m a dessert snob. When we asked about dessert, our waiter brought out three cakes, all made fresh in-house. One was a ricotta cheesecake with fruit on top, one was a napoleon, and the other was a chocolate mousse cake. He told us they also have three flavors of tartufo, imported from Italy. We would’ve liked to have tried one of everything but instead opted for one of each of the cakes (all desserts are $11.95).

The desserts were amazing. First of all, my number one complaint about desserts in restaurants is that they’re too sweet. A pastry is supposed to have a salty note to it because you should be able to taste more than just sugar. Donatello’s really nailed it. The cheesecake was creamy and rich but not too thick. The chocolate mousse cake was unbelievable. The cake was soft and moist and the mousse had a wonderful consistency. The napoleon was probably my favorite, though. Perfectly tender, flaky pastry with amazing, fluffy custard. Each cake was served with their house-made sauces (strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla) on the side. The sauces were just as good as the cakes.

At this point, we were already pretty sold on the place. Then the bill came – with a pink rose for me! (Which is now on my desk at work and still looking pretty perky.) Hubby opened the check and said, “This is less than we spent at the Palm and it was so much better.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

On our way out, the older man we met on our way in thanked us for coming and went to shake our hands. I asked if he’s the owner and he said yes. I complimented him on his restaurant and he gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “Ciao, bella.” Did that make me smile? YEP.

Bottom line, I freakin’ love this place. I didn’t think I would be so enamored but I just keep thinking about it. I want more snails and puttanesca. I want to see the owner again because he’s such a cool old dude, like someone out of a movie. I want another Donatello martini. We’ll definitely go back.

He says:
Before I review this I want to say a couple things. The first is that the only reason we went here was because I got a $100 gift certificate for free when I bought my car. Second, I have heard a lot of good things about this place but I am not a big fan of Italian food. Third, seemed overpriced… but let’s see this review.

We started with fried calamari, prosciutto and melon, and snails on mushrooms. We will start with the calamari. It was fantastic. Lightly fried, wonderfully seasoned and served with a half lemon, which I squeezed on top. Very flavorful with no fishy or gamey taste. Done perfectly and ranks highly in my calamari experiences.

The second was the snails on mushroom caps. Served in a traditional escargot tin. Lots of butter, lots of garlic, lots of seasoning. These were very good. A nice change from the regular old escargot. The mushrooms were firm and the escargot had an excellent texture.

The third app we had was the prosciutto and melon. By far my favorite. The prosciutto was fresh, bright, tons of flavor, absolutely wonderful. The prosciutto was sliced the thinnest I’ve ever seen, wonderfully salty, cured to perfection and just amazing. This is a must have if you go.

For a main I had the linguine al granchio, which means linguini with a ton of giant pieces of lump crab meat on them and a nice white wine sauce. This was also great. The crab was plentiful, fresh, not frozen, no fishy taste, and did I say that the pieces were huge? The linguini was done to perfection and was just fantastic.

For sides we had fried zucchini and sautéed mushrooms. The mushrooms were in a bunch of oil, butter and garlic. They were done well to make them soft without being mushy. The fried zucchini was also great. Lightly fried, not dripping with oil, crisp and served with marinara. These two sides are a must if
you go.

All of these portions were the right size. Not too big and not too small.

Then we get to dessert. We had three. All of their cakes and pies are made in house. We had a napoleon, ricotta cheesecake and a chocolate mousse cake. The best was the napoleon. A ton of flakey layers, with a soft and smooth cream in between them. The ricotta cheesecake was my second favorite. It was tangy, smooth and rich. Served with a vanlla, chocolate and strawberry sauce. All complimented it well. My least favorite but still amazing was the chocolate mousse. The only thing I did not like about it was the chocolate sprinkles on top. That was the only negative about the place.

Overall, I would definitely go back. I was super surprised with the food, service and quality. The service was great and the owner spoke to us for a while and was very pleasant.

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About twofoodiesinlove

About the couple: We are thirtysomethings. We’ve known each other since 2001 when we were in college together and we got married in 2009. About the wife: She’s been an accountant since 2004 and loves numbers maybe a little too much. She eats and cooks and bakes and drinks and constantly has to watch her weight because of it. About the husband: He’s a government employee… for 9 years… he likes nice people who don’t talk too much and FOOD!!! He’s a fatty who loves beer, wine and clear spirits. He likes to cook, usually stuff that is too hard for him but usually turns out well. he tries to watch his weight as it goes by at the speed of light but can’t seem to see it… oh and he loves the Wifey. she rocks.
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One Response to Donatello’s (Tampa)

  1. Pingback: Donatello (Tampa) | twofoodiesinlove

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