Make us your home page

Restaurant review: Opal Sands' new spot Sea-Guini brings solid Italian, seafood despite odd name


Some restaurants have bad names on purpose (Crabby Dick's). And then there are those that may be the naive choices of non-native speakers. (Let's assume Chewy Balls is a boba tea place and Crapitto's Cucina Italiana an unfortunate surname situation.)

Still, there are other names that make you wonder. Was it a group decision, spit-balled in a conference room over too many cups of coffee? Or did someone wake up after an unsettling dream and it was the thought that couldn't be unthought: "I know, we should call the restaurant Sea-Guini. Definitely with a hyphen."

On paper it looks like something for which you'd need an ointment. Say it out loud and there's the eureka: Guini as in linguini. So it's seafood and Italian, I get it.

The marquee restaurant in the new Opal Sands Resort is quite lovely, the exceptional beachside views competing with a bubbling water wall (think aquarium with attitude, sans fish) for focal point. The exhibition kitchen centers around a mosaic-tiled pizza oven; white linens and armchairs are juxtaposed with crisp navy sconces and accents for a subtle nautical allusion.

It reads like a special-occasion or expense-account restaurant, only the dining room is frequently inundated with flip-flopped folks fresh from the beach. Such is Florida restaurant life. Waiters may adopt an entirely unnecessary Italian lilt but they don't seem to have been briefed on precisely how to explain or say the Italian ingredients and dishes. (Those adorable fried doughnut holes called zeppole, say, have an emphasis on the first syllable and the end is like "ay.") Servers make up for such bumbles with consistent friendliness and enthusiasm.

The menu will seem familiar: Caesar salad, burrata caprese, linguini with clams, penne alla vodka. Plates are pretty, servings are ample and prices are hotel-restaurant high. On a couple of visits, the most satisfying dishes, especially visually, were salads and desserts. A classic wedge ($9) is made memorable by its thin vertical planks of crisp pancetta and a great buttermilk dressing juxtaposed with tangy/punchy Gorgonzola shavings. The burrata ($11) was even prettier, with a not-too-sweet balsamic drizzle, squiggles of bright green, fruity olive oil and a flurry of micro basil accenting the plush cheese and wedges of flavorful tomato.

Having talked up the dramatic pizza oven, I regretfully declare that the pizzas need the most work of anything at Sea-Guini. These personal-sized pies have tough, dry crusts that no amount of toppings can ameliorate. Whoever mans the pizza station should learn at the knee of someone like Dan Bavaro — whose newest Bavaro's opens next week downtown in St. Petersburg, as a matter of fact.

Pastas fare better across the board. What's not to like about linguine vongole ($28): wine, garlic, olive oil, chili flake and clams that are sweet and tender. And the wider pappardelle ($25) comes ladled with a deeply savory short rib ragu zapped with a hint of rosemary and a little lively pepperiness imparted by arugula and a flurry of nutty-salty pecorino. With local hogfish and grouper ($29 and $34) on the menu, I would suggest sparer assemblages — the grouper's bread crumb crusting and then heavy tomato coulis (nice flavor, though, because it's lightly smoked) and creamy risotto make it hard to taste the fish itself. Executive chef Todd Holender, most recently of the Florida Keys, does execute some pretty plates, though.

At this point the wine list seems like it needs some expansion in terms of varietal, geographic region and price points, but Sea-Guini is firing on all cylinders with the straight-up Italian desserts. The house creme brulee ($10) features just a whiff of lavender, its candied mantle perfectly shatter-able to get to the velvet below. And a trio of gelati (salted caramel, chocolate and vanilla; $9) is a textbook example of if-it-ain't-broke.

This newcomer gives visitors and beach residents another option, competing directly with SHOR at the Hyatt Regency and Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl. And I know I sounded like a meanie about the Guini, but maybe the name will help it stand out from the pack.

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



430 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach

(727) 450-6236;

Cuisine: Seafood and Italian

Hours: 7 to 11 a.m., noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. daily

Details: AmEx, V, MC, Disc.; full bar; reservations accepted; $10 parking with validation

Prices: Appetizers $7-$19; entrees $22-$39

Rating, out of four stars:

Food: ★★ Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★★

Overall: ★★ ½

Restaurant review: Opal Sands' new spot Sea-Guini brings solid Italian, seafood despite odd name 05/23/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2016 4:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ticket window: Shania Twain, Chicago, George Benson

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Shania Twain performs during the debut of her residency show "Shania: Still the One" at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on December 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
  2. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest


    Plan your weekend


    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  3. Pasco Events for Aug. 25-31


    25 Friday

    Feeding Pasco's Elderly hosts inaugural Leadership Breakfast: The Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Division/Feeding Pasco's Elderly will host this east Pasco event to mirror the Ambassador's Breakfast fundraising event that has been held the past two years on the county's west side. County …

  4. Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Pastelitos, Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    On Saturday, Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. will celebrate its third anniversary with a Florida weisse festival, showcasing densely fruited tart wheat beers from more than a dozen Tampa Bay area breweries including, of course, many of its own brews in this summer-friendly style.

    Center: Coppertail Brewing’s Cherry Pastelitos. Flanking it are Coppertail’s BOMP (blood orange, mango, passionfruit), left, and Pinky Swear (pink lemonade-flavored).
  5. 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' opens run at Show Palace Dinner Theatre


    The Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson takes a nostalgic swing through the 1950s and '60s with its production of Smokey Joe's Cafe, which opens Aug. 26. The local offering of the longest-running rock 'n' roll revue in Broadway history features the legendary pop tunes of hit makers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. …

    A local production of the 1950s and '60s musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe" opens Aug. 26 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.