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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. After 16 years, St. Petersburg's Midtown Sundries closes

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — After 16 years, one of downtown St. Petersburg's longest-running restaurants closed its doors Tuesday, leaving employees, vendors and customers rattling the locked door at lunchtime Wednesday. Midtown Sundries at 200 First Ave. S posted a sign on the window, saying, in part, "It has been a great run, but our 16th year proved to be too much to overcome."

    The past few years have been tricky for Midtown. In 2011, difficult negotiations with landlord Echelon Urban Investors caused owner Charles L. Kott to consider a move to the then-vacated Paddy Burke spot (now home to World of Beer). Things were resolved and Midtown stayed put; Kott summarized the situation: "We were carrying on what might be called difficult negotiations. It's hard times for me, and it's hard times for them. Everybody handled it like ladies and gentlemen."...

    Midtown Sundries' distinctive sign was one of the more memorable parts of the bar.
  2. New Tampa Bay bakeries rise just in time for holidays

    Food & Dining

    In 2013 the real estate blog Movoto ranked St. Petersburg the seventh worst city in the United States for food lovers, citing a tremendous dearth of decent baked goods (it had the fewest bakeries per capita, with one for every 17,500 people). Since that time, Pinellas County has pulled together to clear its good name with a raft of new bakeries, and Tampa has even pitched in with a couple of its own. From bread to pies to artisanal doughnuts, it's a great time do some retail reconnoitering, many of these goodies perfect for the holiday table. ...

    This little number, Pumpkin Roulade, was among the goodies at the recent Tastes of the Season open house at Michael Ostrander’s St. Pete Bakery, 1961 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg.
  3. Pow to open in old Wood Fired Pizza space in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    The space that was St. Petersburg Wood Fired Pizza will open in early December as Pow, a new pizza concept that takes advantage of collaborations with local sauce purveyors, bringing Asian, Hawaiian and other fusion elements to wood-oven pizzas and wings, announced owner Philippe Theodore on Monday.

    Theodore has a vested interest in the restaurant, since he owns World of Beer next door, as well as all the WOBs in Denver and Houston. He took over ownership of the large space in October....

  4. Review: Del Frisco's Grille is worthy addition to Tampa's upscale restaurant row

    Food & Dining


    I misspoke. When I did a preview story on Del Frisco's Grille, the newest upscale restaurant on Boy Scout Boulevard's tony restaurant row, I inaccurately characterized the restaurant's menu as having a "something for everyone approach." She shoots but doesn't score. Having worked my way through a fair bit of the menu now, it hangs together, far from a hodgepodge. But maybe my confusion was borne of a little identity ambiguity with the concept itself....

    Bartender Tiffany Strul works behind the ground-floor bar at Del Frisco’s Grille.
  5. 'Walking Dead' Recap: Look both ways, Carol!


    Look both ways, Carol. She’s the character to whom we should never have to say that. But there it was at the end of “Consumed,” the sixth episode of The Walking Dead's fifth season, Carol hurdling out in front of traffic and getting gurneyed away as Daryl and Noah (Tyler James Williams) jaw about what next. It was a quiet episode, mostly “Caryl” (lacks that Brangelia titillation because heck, they barely shared a moment of bunk bed time in the hour) walking through a disquieting urban landscape. All that wide open space and concrete set the teeth on edge in a way that harkened back to season one of The Walking Dead....

  6. BellaBrava reveals details of new Beach Drive tavern

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The partners of BellaBrava restaurant have revealed plans for their new Stillwaters Tavern, coming to 224 Beach Drive NE.

    The 4,600-square-foot space will open in the spring of 2015 and "will include items you'd expect to find at a tavern, as well as dishes that are inspired from my culinary travels," said chef Jeffrey Jew, a Washington, D.C., transplant and contender on Bravo's Top Chef who will oversee the kitchen....

    The logo for Stillwaters Tavern.
  7. Hosting a holiday party? A guide to private dining spots in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    Halloween decorations back in the attic, thoughts turn to the holiday season before us. On many people's wish list is a holiday party venue — someplace intimate and memorable that's not going to break the bank. Most Tampa Bay area hotels eagerly court private parties with banquet rooms, in-house catering, event coordinators and preferred vendors. Hotels in Pinellas County may have the added benefit of beach access, but Tampa hotels often also offer water views with boats bobbing in the bay. Then there are cultural venues such as the Glazer Children's Museum or the Tampa Museum of Art and special event halls such as Nova 535 in St. Petersburg or A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa....

    Rococo Steak, 655 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg, can host up to 150 seated guests in the dedicated private dining area upstairs. A private dining room on the main floor can accommodate 14.
  8. Bizou Brasserie at Le Méridien changes management, chef, decor

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Bizou Brasserie, the upscale restaurant in Le Méridien hotel, is undergoing some changes.

    For starters, it will now be managed in house, dropping its relationship with SoHo Hospitality, said Gary Prosterman, president and CEO of Development Services Group, on Tuesday.

    Chef Peter LaMontagna has been tapped as executive chef and food and beverage director. He most recently led store operations for Whole Foods Market in Tallahassee and served as regional chef for Whole Foods in the Midwest region and Canada. Under his leadership the menu will maintain its eclectic American-French-Italian sensibility, but will debut regular seasonal menus. Bizou, in response to diner feedback (as well as to a review in the Tampa Bay Times), has also added carpeting to the dining room and acoustical paneling to mitigate a noise problem....

    The Bizou Burger with a brioche bun, caramelized onion, goat cheese and brie at Bizou Brasserie at Le Méridien.
  9. Organic garden at Amalie Arena feeds Lightning players, fans

    Food & Dining


    While the Lightning's Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov battle foes on the ice, Amalie Arena staffers fight another menace: aphids.

    In addition to hockey and concerts, the arena also is home to a new 1-acre organic vegetable garden that helps feed players and fans — and those aphids. (The solution was releasing 15,000 murderous ladybugs.)

    The seed of the idea was planted this summer, when arena general manager Darryl Benge mused how to incorporate more "Tampa" flavor into menu offerings, following a national trend of ballparks and sports arenas showcasing regional delicacies and signature dishes....

    Chris Depree is framed by the hydroponic towers and veggies in them in the hydroponic garden at the Amalie Arena. Depree takes care of the garden and harvests the vegetables  from it. Lettuce, tomatoes herbs and assorted veggies wait to be picked in the hydroponic garden at the Amalie Arena.  The harvest ends up on the plates of food served in several of the restaurants  in the arena. The garden is built on a deck in the back compound area where trucks are unloaded for events and deliveries are made. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
  10. Review: Tampa's Sushi Ninja distinguishes itself with Korean fare

    Food & Dining


    It's definitely the long white pieces of paper and the little pencils that do it. You feel like you're scoring mini golf as you scroll down, adding little check marks along the way: Hmm, the devil roll sounds good. And we've got to try the Mt. Fuji roll with its special spicy sauce. Oh, and a South Tampa roll with the fried shrimp, natch. You don't realize you've gone completely off your rocker until the platters of sushi start materializing tableside. We're gonna need a bigger table....

     A special sushi order of the Crazy Mexican roll at the new Sushi Ninja Tampa restaurant in Tampa Thursday October 30, 2014. The restaurant is an offshoot of the successful restaurant in Brandon and serves a variety of sushi as well as Korean dishes. The Sushi Ninja is open Monday thru Thursday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday thru Saturday 11 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. until 10 p.m.
  11. Dunkin' Donuts debuts its version of the 'cronut'

    Food & Dining


    Dunkin' Donuts goes upper crust, debuting its new Croissant Donut on Monday. This is their version of the fabled cronut, offered for $2.13 including tax (a regular DD doughnut rings in at 99 cents plus tax).

    At the peak of the frenzy, black market cronut mules in New York offered to wait in line and deliver your half-croissant, half-doughnut pastry for $50. Each. Celebrities, politicians and the nation's foodie pilgrims cooled their heels in long lines for a chance to eat one. The inventor of the cronut, Dominique Ansel, has moved on to other cultish confections, but bakers around the country continue to tinker with the formula. Last year Piquant in Hyde Park Village was thronged for their guava- and nutella-filled croissant doughnuts....

    Dunkin Donuts debuts its version of the "cronut."
  12. Two takes on Tampa's new Studio Movie Grill dinner-movie combo


    By Steve Persall,Times Movie Critic

    Dinner and a movie is a fine idea for a date, but maybe not at the same time.

    Depends on whether film or food is more important. Movies are best enjoyed without distractions. Except for laughs and gasps, silence and stillness is golden.

    Dining is when people talk, to each other and the server, who politely talks back before shuttling to the next table. Bussing is a must. Silence and stillness isn't practical....

    The outside of Studio Movie Grill at University Mall.
  13. Del Frisco's Grille gets tables ready for Tampa opening Saturday

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — A waiter unfurls a length of bright yellow string to measure that each wine glass is aligned across the expansive dining room while general manager Beth Weisman describes the precision efforts that enable Del Frisco's Grille to open its doors Saturday.

    Yes, the private dining room is still functioning as storage, but the build-out at 4010 Boy Scout Blvd. has been miraculous — including a stunning rooftop deck — commencing in the 9,000-square-foot empty MetWest International space next to Kona Grill just months ago in July....

    The Deviled Eggs at Del Frisco’s are topped with truffle-chive vinagrette.
  14. Fine-dining spot Lauro Ristorante closes in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Another one bites the dust. Its tablecloths were deep fuchsia, not white, but last week's closure of Lauro Ristorante represents yet another loss for Tampa Bay's fine-dining scene.

    Lauro Medaglia could not be reached for comment, but doors are closed and the phone has been disconnected.

    A special-occasion go-to spot for 33 years in Tampa, Lauro got its start on Waters Avenue and moved to its more recent 3915 Henderson Blvd. location in 1990, relying upon the patronage of affluent residents of the Beach Park and Palma Ceia neighborhoods. Medaglia also had a Lauro Ristorante location downtown at 100 S Ashley Drive for three years....

    Lauro Ristorante, on Henderson Boulevard in Tampa. [Google Street View]
  15. Review: Pia's Trattoria only gets better through the years

    Food & Dining


    The last time I reviewed Pia's was April 2007. I know this because it was the first place I reviewed as the food critic of the Times. For that story, Times photographer Scott Keeler took a photo of red-aproned Pia Goff in front of her ochre-colored facade, two hanging baskets of geraniums framing her, a robin's-egg blue tablecloth on a nearby outdoor table. It is still one of my favorite photos ever in the paper, evocative of tiny Tuscan villages and those desultory Italian meals Diane Lane got to eat in that movie. Goff ran out of food the day that photo printed....

    In addition to pastas and other textbook Italian dishes, Pia’s offers specials. Check the board for such dishes as Scottish Salmon With Roasted Moscato Grapes. And don’t forget to leave room for a house-made dessert.