"Modern Italian backed by the classics," is how Chef Michael Buttacavoli describes the menu and setting created for Cena, a new restaurant in Tampa's Channel District.
Beef short rib and braised pork in a rustic Bolognese sauce is just one example of a twist on tradition featured at the March 15 opening in Grand Central at Kennedy.
Owners Ken Stoltenberg and Frank Bombeeck turned to several local experts for their new venture. Buttacavoli, who previously cooked at Bern's, SideBern's and various venues within the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, collaborated on wine and menu development with Susan Bianchi and Romeo Patron, owners of Bianchi's Enoteca. Maitre d' Stanley Young brings experience from working at Edison and Mise en Place.
All that talent combines to make Cena, "supper" in Italian, a sophisticated but neighborly scene. Conversations entwined on a recent visit to the 40-seat spot, including 15 at the bar. Guests couldn't resist making recommendations to other diners. Try the braised oxtail and gnocchi, urged a bar mate. And don't miss the mussels, said his wife.
Appetizer selections start with assorted charcuterie and cheeses antipasto. Salads include a "fruit da mare" medley of shrimp, mussels, scallops and baby octopus in an orange fennel vinaigrette. Seafood lovers will go for Cena Cippino, a traditional fish stew in a tomato broth, and the risotto loaded with shrimp, calamari , scallops and such. Save room for dessert: Tiramisu and chocolate marsala cake topped with homemade caramel gelato are highly recommended.
Cena is located at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd. The bar opens at 4 p.m.; dinner service is 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (813) 374-8840 or visit cena-channelside.com.