Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Restaurants

Restaurant review: Beau and Mo's is an inviting Italian newcomer to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

GPS has dimmed our passion for physical maps, and I would posit that this in turn has curtailed some of our wanderlust. That's my theory, anyway. Remember when you'd gaze at a wide open map of the U.S., each state represented in pale pastels and Interstates 10 to 80 making inviting crooked lines from end to end? It was easy to lapse into a roadtrip reverie, chucking it all Easy Rider — or Thelma and Louise — style without any of the messy bits.

Madonna and Beau Wallace just did it. Longtime Chicago restaurateurs, they were ready to get out of the snow and cold. Where do we want to go? They piled into the car and tried New Orleans. Nice, but not quite it. Then it was off to the Keys. Almost it. And then they headed up to St. Petersburg, stayed at the Hollander and fell in love.

They've been here nine weeks and signed a lease on a restaurant six weeks ago, putting a whole lot of elbow grease into the space that most recently was Crums Bar and Grill and Sazon Restaurante. It's a humble space that is never going to be hip or glamorous, but it is perfectly suited to a family-friendly neighborhood Italian spot, one that has deals like half-price pasta on Wednesday, half-price wine bottles on Tuesday and buy-one-get-one-half-price on Thursday.

Beau is in the kitchen, having learned to cook at his grandmother's knee, with Dave Burns, whom they brought with them from Chicago as sous chef. Madonna (Mo) scoots around the dining room, making the kind of seasoned pro chitchat that is amiable and never intrusive.

I watched two little boys and their dad on a gentlemen's evening out slurping up wide bowls of pappardelle Bolognese ($18, but it was Wednesday, so $9), licking garlic bread grease from their fingers and debating the relative merits of football and basketball. Meanwhile, I plowed into a pork chop Vesuvio ($18), a juicy monster topped with an avalanche of green peas (why have green peas fallen so out of favor? Give peas a chance!) and creamy plank potatoes, all of it glossed with a garlicky wine sauce. It is a huge chop, but looks positively demure when compared to the 32-ounce tomahawk ribeye chop ($56), wet-aged for more than 30 days, which easily feeds two or more — and on the second-entree-half-off night it becomes a serious bargain.

Another night I sat at the bar with a friend and shared a bowl of orecchiette ($16), little ears of pasta into the whorls of which soft white beans had snuck, wisps of spinach lending color and a bit of grassiness. (Here's a tip: Add spicy sausage to this dish to lift its heartiness.) And although entrees come with a serviceable little green salad, we couldn't resist a starter of burrata ($12), that buffalo mozzarella cousin with the velvety center, shown off against good, ripe beefsteak tomatoes, basil and salad greens.

The restaurant's wine list is pleasant but unremarkable, with a big handful of large-production Italian bottlings and an array of wine-based cocktails (without a full liquor license, they're playing around with wine that mimics vodka or gin, which sadly lacks the verve of the real deal). There are very competent cappuccinos ($4.50), best sipped alongside the just-filled cannoli ($6), shells crunchy and ricotta filling fluffy and sweet.

These Chicago transplants haven't brought St. Petersburg anything revolutionary. You've seen cheese ravioli with marinara like this before. But in a town that is increasingly dense with restaurants, Beau & Mo's has the comfortable, inviting vibe of a neighborhood favorite right out of the gate.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

   
Comments
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago
Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

TAMPA — Who doesn’t love free food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, thanks to Little Caesars and some March Madness, everybody in the country can get free pizza today. Before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started, Little...
Updated one month ago