Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Dining

Review: DeLucia bakery, cafe has appetizing start in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG

I blew a transmission in Italy. I rode the clutch; I cannot lie. But it was the fallout that I found telling. Italians were willing to help me, they were willing to fix a car, rent me a new car, drive me somewhere, make me a snack, whatever. Just not, like, right now. Or any time soon. There was a word I kept hearing, often offered with shrugged shoulders or a flappy hand gesture. That word was domani. Translation: tomorrow.

Partners Raffaele Pagnotta and Fabrizio Picariello are taking it slow with DeLucia Italian Bakery Cafe. They are tinkering, not rushing into marketing or even having a website that lists a phone number or offers a menu. They have imported master baker Gianluca DeLucia to help with the pizza doughs, breads and Italian baked goods. They have taken coffeemaking intensives with Illy coffee. And at the beginning of April, they quietly opened with the assurance that the kinks will get worked out over time.

DeLucia doesn't look like anything else downtown: Sleek wooden tables have drapey beige runners, a room of tufted leather stools surround glass cubes in which Illy coffee equipment is decoratively displayed. There's an ordering counter and display case stacked with croissants, pastry-wrapped hot dogs, wraps and fat slices of pizza. Along another wall is a long, sleek espresso bar, the whole room with a hip, slightly industrial feel. The soundtrack is pure goofy Italian radio, the same kind of stuff I listened to while I was waiting for domani to come.

So what is it exactly? It's a coffeehouse pizza parlor cafeteria bakery. The best offerings are the whole pizzas (most $10.50), long rectangles that ably feed two people, not super thin-crusted and with a tangy, chunky tomato sauce. The by-the-slice options ($3-$3.50) are less successful because they are reheated, the cheese mantle never achieving its former glory and the crust suffering while it waits for a customer.

You order at the counter and then listen for your food and drink orders to come up (there's still confusion about whether servers come to you or vice versa — they'll work it out), and as time goes by, the whole-bread options (most loaves around $4) will expand. Already a display case of traditional Italian sugar cookies (half-pound for $6), with toppings from sprinkles to flaked coconut, make a great treat to take home (or back to the office if you need to suck up to your boss). The cookies are crisp, not too sweet and very buttery, their ideal accompaniment a stiff espresso ($2) or lush cappuccino ($3.50) made with super fragrant Illy grounds.

This newcomer represents the first U.S. franchise for DeLucia, which began in Benevento and has other locations in Rome, Milan and Dubai. In the same block as Starbucks, DeLucia will have some heavy lifting to do to become downtown's go-to coffee fix. In fact, the coffee is quite good, and much of the food, even the grab-and-go stuff, is superior to that at 'Bucks.

There is a rich wedge of layered eggplant Parmesan ($11.50) and a caprese salad ($11.50) that forgoes balsamic vinegar in favor of a very good, very fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of dried herbs (but watch the rosemary twigs, they can be pokey). And an array of traditional Italian tarts are worthy of serious investigation, especially the torta della nonna (grandma's tart; $4.50), which is an almond-scented custard on a delicate, flaky crust. Portions on the desserts are a bit generous for one person, but I can start that diet, you know, tomorrow.

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

     
Comments
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

Going fishing is like doing your taxes. If it’s something you dive into just once a year you end up relearning the whole thing every time. Jake Whitfield eyed me, no judgment, and decided to cast for me the first time, my little wriggling greenback z...
Published: 06/11/18
Ceviche closing in South Tampa

Ceviche closing in South Tampa

TAMPA – The Ceviche restaurant at 2500 W Azeele St. is closing.Caledon Concepts, which operates Ceviche restaurants in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, said the restaurant’s last day at that location will be June 16."The expiration of the lease for...
Published: 06/08/18
Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

SAVE THE DATE: HARD ROCK B-DAYOn June 14, 1971, the founders opened their own American-style diner in an old Rolls-Royce dealership and called it Hard Rock Cafe. They had a vision to combine music, memorabilia and all-American fare. Here’s a tip: To ...
Published: 06/06/18
Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

GULFPORTWhat do we know about El Chapo, a.k.a. Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán? He ran the Sinaloa Cartel, even from prison, and first appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list in 2009. He’s 5 feet 6. He’s the father of 12 or 13 children. He has a talen...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/07/18
National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

Believe it or not, Friday is already June 1, which means National Doughnut Day is back with sweet deals.The day was created to celebrate the Salvation Army’s "Doughnut Lassies," who served the treats to American soldiers on the front lines during Wor...
Updated one month ago
A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

TAMPAThe executive chefs all fly into Columbus, Ohio. Before they step into the kitchen, before they sharpen a knife, they sit down and have a meeting, an open dialogue. They examine the whole menu: What’s working? What needs fixing? And then they ge...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant review: Bar Asia will have to raise the bar if it wants to thrive in South Tampa

Restaurant review: Bar Asia will have to raise the bar if it wants to thrive in South Tampa

TAMPALet’s review our star system. One star is fair, two is good, three is great and four is mind-blowing. I’m going to start my review of Bar Asia by saying that one star for service is generous. Here’s why.On my first visit, the bartender was crabb...
Updated one month ago