Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

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

    Food & Dining


    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....

    Italian cookies are the real deal — crisp, not too sweet and very buttery — and go well with a stiff espresso or lush cappuccino.
  2. Longest Table event brings together restaurants, diners to raise money for WUSF

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Joggers and cyclists on Bayshore Drive craned their necks. Was it a wedding, a bar mitzvah? Set squarely in the middle of the street, the fancy white-clothed dinner tables adorned with aqua blue runners were part of the first-ever Longest Table event Thursday evening to benefit WUSF. Masterminded by Brian James Wiggins of Mixon and Wiggins public relations in Bradenton, the event brought together three restaurants and 135 diners for a multi-course dinner alfresco along St. Petersburg's waterfront....

  3. St. Pete Brewing opens; Sea Dog rolls out the barrels

    Bars & Spirits

    National Beer Day was April 7, but locally, Thursday was more exciting.

    St. Pete Brewing Co., which has already made a name for itself with its St. Pete Orange Wheat and others, opened at 544 First Ave. N in St. Petersburg. The brewery was originally set to open in November, but the federal government shutdown in October gummed up the works for owners Tom and Michele Williams, holding up their Brewer's Notice application....

  4. Head chef dishes on Ava, opening this summer in SoHo

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Michael Stewart, owner of Tampa's 717 South, was in Los Angeles eating dinner at Bestia, Ori Menashe's hot regional Italian restaurant. He was checking out the Acunto wood-fired oven, a very expensive toy he himself had just purchased for his soon-to-open Ava, a collaboration with Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, that is set to open this summer in the Post SoHo apartment complex at W Swann and S Howard avenues....

  5. Lobster Haven is a bit of Maine heaven right here

    Food & Dining


    Temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have increased every year since 1992, accelerating rapidly since 2004. I don't know what climate-change deniers make of that, but for the past couple of years all this warm water has had one big upside: plentiful Maine lobsters. In 2012 and 2013 there were record-breaking hauls that translated into a deluge of chowder and lobster rolls in New England states. ...

    Lobster Haven, at 12807 W Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa, is both a market and a seriously no-fuss (as in foam plates) restaurant.
  6. Brass Tap closes, Rococo to expand in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — After a very brief life, downtown's Brass Tap closed this weekend. The historic former YWCA at 653 Second Ave. S opened at the end of October with Rococo Steak on one side and the craft beer concept on the other. Brass Tap intends to move to another location in St. Petersburg, and nationally the company aims to expand enormously, quadrupling the number of existing locations in Florida over the next several years and adding dozens of franchises in the rest of the country....

    The Brass Tap adjacent to Rococo Steak has closed, allowing the owners of the restaurant to create a new project in the space.
  7. Review: 717 South in Tampa should be on your list of regulars

    Food & Dining


    I've always liked the space at 717 South, sprawling but with tables set tight enough that it feels intimate, and a convivial bar with a cocktail-shaker soundtrack. I've always liked its art deco canvases, vivid but with a slightly psychedelic tweakiness. And I've always enjoyed talking to owner Michael Stewart, who this summer opens Ava in South Tampa with Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. ...

    A dish of Szechuan duck breast with garlic, ginger soy and cilantro marinade, jalapeno sweet potato mash and asparagus is among the house specialties. 
  8. Innovation, timing create sweet spot for Florida blueberries


    In the early years of Florida's foray into growing blueberries, there were a lot of naysayers. We were a citrus state, a tomato state, a strawberry state.

    But the area of blueberries harvested in the state has roughly tripled over the last 10 years, and this year's crop is likely to reach 25 million pounds, with a harvest season that fits fairly tidily in between those of Chile and Georgia. Michigan, the nation's leader in cultivated blueberries, produced 87 million pounds in 2012. In 2013, Chile exported 174 million pounds of blueberries, most of them to the United States....

    The area of blueberries harvested in Florida has roughly tripled over the last 10 years, and this year’s crop is likely to reach 25 million pounds.
  9. Review: Black Palm moves and gussies up Jungle Prada venue

    Food & Dining


    Some say Al Capone was part owner of the Jungle Prada nightclub that was once here. There's talk that Babe Ruth got hitched here. Others say a secret underground tunnel at the nightclub was used by bootleggers during Prohibition, and that it's built on an Indian burial ground. And most folks agree that Count Basie and Duke Ellington played here when the club was called the Gangplank. The 1924 building in the Jungle Prada section of St. Petersburg has a glamorous past....

    Ceviche De La Costa tapas ($9) consists of snapper, scallops and shrimp in a zesty mango relish at the Black Palm, which restored the elegance to the sprawling 1920s building that once housed Saffron’s. 
  10. 'Restaurant: Impossible' has enough volunteers for Hudson project

    Food & Dining

    It may be too late to roll up your sleeves and join chef Robert Irvine and his team on Restaurant: Impossible as they get to work on Hudson's Portu-Greek Café. The Food Network show will be in town next week taping on Wednesday and Thursday, and they have all the volunteers they can use. As usual, the show's challenge is this: Save one of America's most desperate restaurants from impending failure in just two days with a budget of only $10,000. But there is one way Tampa Bay area foodies can help the muscle-bound British dynamo. Call the Portu-Greek Café, 6928 Clark St., Hudson, at (727) 863-3200 to make reservations for the grand re-opening on Thursday (April 3), starting at 7 p.m. The general public is invited to weigh in on whether Restaurant: Impossible has effectively reinvented this Pasco County father-and-son Greek seafooder....

  11. Go big or go home at this giant food truck rally

    Food & Dining

    Last year Tampa stomped Miami's record for the world's largest food truck rally. This year we're going to break our own record. Anticlimactic? Well, not if it means 200 food trucks gathering in downtown Tampa on Saturday morning for Mayor Bob Buckhorn's benediction before parading single file all the way to the Florida State Fairgrounds. The festival opens to the public at noon and runs to 8 p.m., with 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours on Sunday as well. This year, an official Guinness World Records adjudicator will be on hand to record and verify the event, and if accomplished, present a World Records certificate in a special ceremony on Saturday. Last year's record-breaker was a single-day event drawing 100 food trucks and 18,000 attendees. Generation Food Truck organizers anticipate more than 35,000 attendees this year, with added enticements of 14 bands including 3D Burn, Drastic Fall, Carlisle and Variance, a kids' play zone and adult thrill rides and games. Admission is free; and parking is $6. Rides and games cost extra. The Florida State Fairgrounds is located at 4800 U.S. 301 N in Tampa....

  12. Downtown St. Petersburg restaurant scene sees changes

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown restaurant scene is heating up, with a big handful of newcomers, concept changes and personnel adjustments.

    BellaBrava owners Dyce Craig and Robert Sanderson have had a parting of the ways with Mike Harting, who also owns 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg. Last week it was announced that BellaBrava owners will launch a yet-to-be-named tavern at 224 Beach Drive NE — now Bruce Watters Jewelers — this year....

    Primi Ristorante Italiano has closed, but Bombay Grill, St. Petersburg Brewing, and Calypso Rum Bar & Island Grill are here or on the way.
  13. Taco Bell's new breakfast? Good and bad (w/video)

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The breakfast wars are heating up. On Thursday, Taco Bell debuted its first morning menu with items such as the much ballyhooed Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap, all aimed at taking a bite out of McDonald's morning profits.

    And Taco Bell is not alone.

    Dunkin' Donuts recently launched a more substantial — and savory — array of breakfast items, and Subway and Starbucks have chewed up some of Mickey D's lead with their own options. These new morning additions reflect the fact that breakfast is the only growth day segment in recent months, with flagging soda sales and "healthy-alternative" newcomers like Chipotle and Panera cutting into fast food giants' lunch and dinner profits....

    Taco Bell's A.M. Crunchwrap.
  14. Volunteer to help Robert Irvine fix up a Hudson restaurant

    Food & Dining

    Wait a cotton-picking second. The musclebound Brit at the helm of Restaurant: Impossible doesn't use his own elbow grease to fix those misguided and bedraggled restaurants? Guess not. A call has gone out for volunteers on the Food Network's Facebook page to help fix up an unnamed restaurant in Hudson. Shifts are 1 to 8 p.m. April 2; 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. April 2, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 3. Tasks will include painting, crafting, remodeling, cleaning, decorating, etc. The team is also looking for skilled contractors. It's unpaid work, but volunteers will be fed. You may be on camera, so wear clothing without logos. If interested, email by Friday with preferred shift(s), full name, email and cell number using subject line: FN HUDSON VOLUNTEERS. Raise a hammer with Robert Irvine before he makes you lunch? A dream come true for some Food Network fans....

  15. Datz owners opening Roux with New Orleans accent in South Tampa

    Food & Dining

    Suzanne and Roger Perry, the indefatigable owners of Datz and Dough in Tampa, have announced a third restaurant to join their lineup.

    When Wimauma closed at 4205 S MacDill Ave. in May, the Perrys expressed interest in the space but St. Croix Plaza owner John Zambito wasn't ready to rent.

    "This new project happened almost overnight. We drove by the other day randomly on our way to get yogurt and saw the for-lease sign," said Suzanne Perry. They signed the lease and hashed out plans for a renovation to the plaza with Zambito. Roux is scheduled to open this summer, taking up the space that was Wimauma as well as the dentist's office next door....