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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. Local restaurants have fun with April Fools' pranks

    Food & Dining

    Z Grille closing? Datz going Chinese? A Burger King perfume?

    Not so fast.

    We're talking April 1, people. And restaurants are notorious pranksters.

    Zack Gross, one of our area's few James Beard semifinalists, announced the 10th anniversary of his Z Grille in St. Petersburg — as well as its closure — in a Facebook post Monday evening.

    "After 10 years in the Burg, from Central Ave. to the Signature Building, we have decided to go in a different direction. From the Rowdies Den, Station House, Reno's Downtown Joint to the Sundial restaurants as competitors, we are forced to close our doors. Luckily you will be able to enjoy Zack's culinary skills at one of the mentioned restaurants … to be announced."...

    For April Fool’s Day, Datz in Tampa will be transformed into a Chinese restaurant.
  2. Rowdies Den sports bar to debut in downtown St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    When Midtown Sundries closed abruptly in November, rumors began to swirl: It would become a steakhouse, a Tilted Kilt, Bill Edwards' next downtown project. This last rumor turned out to be true, and on Saturday the Rowdies Den debuts, just in time for his North American Soccer League team's first game of the season. It's an away game in San Antonio, Texas, but Tampa Bay Rowdies fever will run high at 200 First Ave. S, with members of Ralph's Mob and teammates who aren't in San Antonio in attendance....

    The new Rowdies Den restaurant in St. Petersburg, formerly Midtown Sundries, is one block west of Al Lang Field, where the team plays. The entire space has been retooled and will feature craft brews and Rowdies-themed food.
  3. Cook hack: a recipe for the perfect hard-boiled egg


    Hard-boiled eggs: It's as simple as boiling water, right? Couldn't be more wrong. The perfect hard-boiled egg requires meticulous attention to detail, otherwise you get that tough, rubbery white and pasty yolk with an ugly gray-green edge. Whether you're dyeing them or deviling them, place your eggs in a large saucepan in a single layer and cover with cool water by 1 inch. Slowly bring the water to a vigorous simmer (a rolling boil may crack your eggs, so don't get crazy here). Once you've achieved serious bubbles, put a cover on the pot and remove from heat. Time for 12 minutes, drain, then run the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking. The whites won't be tough, the yolk will be a picture-perfect yellow and nice and fluffy. Fresher eggs are easier to peel. If yours are recalcitrant, roll them in your palm back and forth on your counter, and peel them under running water. ...

  4. Celebrity chefs offer tips for bringing something different to the table this Easter


    Some things we know for sure. There will be Peeps, there will be jelly beans (black jelly beans: delightful treat or pure evil?) and there will be an Easter dinner entree you've seen before. Maybe ham, maybe lamb.

    This year, after the egg hunt has run its course, try something different. We asked a handful of celebrity chefs, visiting St. Petersburg's HSN headquarters for a recent 24-hour marathon event billed as the world's largest cooking class, to weigh in on how to enjoy entertaining friends and family this Sunday....

  5. Review: PieTopia's pies please; prices and service don't

    Food & Dining


    The Fourth Street N corridor is splitting at the seams with new restaurants and there are more to come (Pericos, Casita Taqueria, Fresh Kitchen, Daily Eats). There's already a lot of pizza (Tour de Pizza, Flipper's, Westshore, Paisano's, Noble Crust, Goodfella's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's). Which is why I was a little skeptical when I saw the sign go up for PieTopia. Yes, Americans eat about 100 acres of pizza a day, but is there more room for anything, much less pizza, up on Fourth Street?...

    The meter pizzas at PieTopia in St. Petersburg feed six to eight people and cost up to $125. This pizza, not shown in its entirety, is three pies in one, and includes the Paris and the Da Vinci.
  6. Recipe for Passover Slow Cooker Beef Brisket


    First, there's the "What is it?" Jewish brisket is not corned beef. Nor is it Texas-style barbecued brisket or French pot au feu, although the cut is the same. One of the nine beef primal cuts, it's from the pectorals, and because cows don't have collarbones, this big muscle supports a lot of bovine body weight. (Read: Cook this cut low and slow to maximize tenderness.)

    Then there's the "Why is it the most traditional Passover protein?"...

    Cook the beef brisket, a traditional Passover meal, low and slow to ensure tender meat. A slow cooker is perfect for the job.
  7. Besito Mexican prepares for April 8 opening in West Shore



    The candle wall is already flickering with 150 electric votives, but banquettes still need to be placed and the cobblestone patio is yet to be laid. The hours are ticking by as WestShore Plaza anticipates the April 8 debut of Besito Mexican. The Palm steakhouse location closed quietly last year — too many steakhouse competitors nearby? — providing the ideal space for Outback Steakhouse founder Chris Sullivan and business partner Hugh Connerty to bring something new to Tampa's business corridor....

    Besito is a high end Mexican concept that will seat 260 in over 7,500-square-feet of dining space in WestShore Plaza. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  8. Bern's is Florida's only finalist for 2015 James Beard awards

    Food & Dining

    On Tuesday, the James Beard Foundation announced this year's finalists for its annual culinary awards, commonly referred to as the Academy Awards of food. In the entire state of Florida, only one restaurant made the cut: Bern's Steak House.

    A nearly 60-year-old Tampa legend, Bern's was named a finalist in the Outstanding Wine Program category.

    With what is said to be the largest restaurant wine list in the country, Bern's will compete against two restaurants in Charleston, S.C., (FIG and McCrady's) and two in California (A16 in San Francisco and Spago in Beverly Hills)....

    The only Florida finalist, Bern’s Steak House was named in Outstanding Wine Program category.
  9. St. Petersburg creates Sun Racer as official cocktail of Grand Prix weekend

    Bars & Spirits

    ST. PETERSBURG — It starts with Bacardi 8 Rum, then follows through with Bols Orange Curacao, fresh lime juice, almond syrup and a big Florida orange slice. Shaken, not stirred. Behold, the Sun Racer, official adult beverage of St. Petersburg's Grand Prix.

    The cocktail is a collaboration by city creative services manager Nina Mahmoudi, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and mixologist Jason Fackler....

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin picked the Sun Racer, official cocktail of this year’s Grand Prix. 
Courtesy of 
St. Petersburg
  10. Review: Food catching up to spectacular setting at Tarpon Turtle Grill & Marina

    Food & Dining


    The Turtle continues to evolve. For years it was Jack Willie's Tarpon Turtle, a shambling good-times place that went a little light on the culinary niceties. Then in 2013 it was bought by William Hotaling and wife Christine Macedonio and transformed into Billy's Tarpon Turtle, a step up but one that still didn't quite take. And then at the end of December, Eric and Katie Webber signed the lease and got to work, debuting their Tarpon Turtle Grill & Marina in February. ...

    Pulled Pork Tacos, made with slow-roasted jerked pork, cheddar cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce and mango chutney, at the Tarpon Turtle Grill & Marina in Tarpon Springs.
  11. Nabruzzi brings winning Italian tradition to Lutz

    Food & Dining


    Massimo Sabetti was born into an Italian cooking family. He never went to culinary school but came up in the kind of immersion program that makes one fluent in pizza, red sauce and cannoli. Sabetti had several restaurants over the years, sitting down with now ex-partner Michael Cavalieri last year to sift through all those years of specials, the best of which were assembled in Nabruzzi Trattoria's debut menu last August....

    Diners at Nabruzzi Trattoria in Lutz.
  12. Café Largo chef Dominique Christini chosen for international celebration of French cuisine

    Food & Dining

    LARGO — Café Largo has been selected to participate in Goût de France, a one-night global celebration of French cuisine. On Thursday, more than 1,000 chefs on five continents will simultaneously present their menus extolling the merits of the classical French kitchen.

    The initiative was launched by Laurent Fabius, French minister of foreign affairs, along with world-renowned, three Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. ...

    Café Largo chef Dominique Christini has been selected to participate in Goût de France, a one-night global celebration of French cuisine.
  13. Review: Tampa's Fusion Bowl a charming pan-Asian lunch option

    Food & Dining


    In the window, leaning jauntily on its kickstand, is a weathered retro bike with a conical paddy hat slung over one handlebar like a vintage prop from Apocalypse Now. It's just about the only old-looking thing at Fusion Bowl. Opened Jan. 19, this charming pan-Asian breakfast and lunch quickie spot is presided over by the young and adorable Michelle Vuu and Bao Lai. With a spare, Ikea-inspired design, pretty chalkboard menu and hipster soundtrack, it feels fresh and dynamic, a notable improvement over the bedraggled Cuban cafe most recently in this spot....

    Fusion Bowl’s menu includes Vietnamese dishes (bun, pictured, banh mi and pho), some Japanese go-tos (udon bowls, gyoza), hot and cold teas (that’s muddled fruit tea with mixed berries and mint in the background), Viet-French drip coffee and some memorable desserts.
  14. Haven opens for dinner in the former SideBern's space

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Haven opened quietly Monday in the former SideBern's space, once again forming the third point of a heavy-duty culinary triangle in South Tampa: Flagship Bern's Steak House, a traditional high-end steakhouse; Elevage at the Epicurean aiming to be a more casual and affordable option focused on whimsical spins on American comfort foods; and now Haven, a mid-priced wine bar restaurant....

  15. Tampa's Seminole Heights becomes 'it' spot for hot restaurants, bars

    Food & Dining


    Veronica Danko, in the business proposal for her upcoming Jug & Bottle Dept. bottle shop, sums it up nicely.

    "The Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa has seen a rapid growth in resident beer and wine enthusiasts and 'foodies,' while also enticing out-of-towners with its burgeoning restaurant and bar scene. These residents and visitors provide a unique opportunity for a package and retail business to capitalize on, as the neighborhood is still missing important amenities, such as a place to buy international and small-batch beers and wines, gourmet food items and quality casual takeout food."...

    Ichicoro will be a ramen house, but it will by no means be an instant soup place.