By Laura Reiley
In February, Casa Tina moved next door. The question: What to do with the old restaurant? It's a sweet little corner space adjacent to the Pinellas Trail, prime for a casual nosh. So owners Tina Marie and Javier Avila turned it into a wine bar with a short menu of salads, cheeses and desserts.
The concept needs tinkering. The short wine list features a number of pedestrian grocery store stalwarts (Cycles Gladiator pinot noir, Santa Margherita pinot grigio, Beringer chardonnay). That's not bad, per se, but the resulting list is muddled. What is it trying to be? A lovely South African sauvignon blanc, a spicy St. Francis red blend and an unusual Rosenblum port get lost in the shuffle. The list might benefit from a narrower focus — a single country? Boutique producers? Little-known bargains?
The hodgepodge approach extends to the menu. It's hard to put together a meal. On one visit, the kitchen was out of Serrano ham, an absence that meant the menu was almost entirely vegetarian. Though I love the idea of a vegetarian wine bar (after all, many veggies are notoriously tough to pair with wines), this menu relies too heavily on salads. Baby arugula ($7) comes pleasant but underdressed; mixed greens ($6) are sparse in their advertised blue cheese, walnut and apple. There are only a few hot dishes: overcooked roasted veggies ($6) flavored assertively with rosemary, and a crock of wild mushrooms and water chestnuts (not the advertised "chestnuts") kicked up with a splash of Madeira. Bruschetta ($6) had wan tomatoes; a pale veggie empanada ($4) was dry. Even desserts, from Michael's Extraordinary Desserts in St. Petersburg, were a disappointment: a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon was rock hard, strawberry custard cake ($5) disconcertingly wet.
Dunedin's Main Street is awash in praiseworthy restaurants, including Pan y Vino's big sister next door. In order to capture the attention of the dining public, Pan y Vino has to bring something new to the table.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, can be found at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.