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Carino's serves "la dolce vita'

Published Sep. 29, 2005

(ran SP edition)

For fine Italian lasagne, veal, lamb and lobster, head to the St. Pete Beach side of the Blind Pass Bridge.

With so many great choices before me, I'm still not sure why I ordered lasagne, something I can make at home with success.

But when our dinners from Carino's Italian Cafe arrived home, I was thrilled. This lasagne ($10.95) was nothing like my own, or my mom's, for that matter. It was stacked with very finely chopped meat and had equally fine layers of cheese, plus a smooth, tomato-based sauce that was more creamy than red. The whole meal just melted in our mouths, and the portions were perfect. With two slices of lasagne, I had enough for a hearty dinner and lunch the next day.

Scaloppine Carino ($15.95), was a nice slice of veal with shiitake mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, garlic, rosemary and a white wine sauce. The veal was particularly tender and perfectly seasoned, accompanied by a side of ziti topped with the same creamy tomato sauce that enhanced the lasagne.

Both meals included salad with large, fresh leaves of Romaine covered with an Italian vinaigrette. We enjoyed the rich Parmesan flavor, but there was a bit too much of the dressing.

Our order included a whole round loaf of bread so fresh we watched the chef pull it out of the oven.

Thankfully, the chocolate mousse cheesecake was available when we arrived just before 6 on a Friday evening, but the host said the other desserts were still being prepared. We shared a slice of the cheesecake, which had been drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was moist and yummy. We look forward to choosing dessert from the spread that usually is offered on a front table during weekend nights.

All of the food was well packaged in Styrofoam containers that were wrapped again in plastic. The meals were warm and intact when they arrived home.

Karim and Margaret Nouri prepare all the meals, breads and desserts. The other desserts (all $4) include strawberry kiwi cheesecake, tiramisu, napoleans and profiteroles.

Carino's opened three years ago on the St. Pete Beach side of the Blind Pass Bridge. The lasagne and veal dishes that we sampled are among the restaurant's most popular items, said Karim Nouri. Rack of lamb roasted with garlic, rosemary sauce and topped with bread crumbs and Dijon mustard ($19.95) is another big seller. Nouri also prepares a special lobster, sauteed with lemon, capers and white wine over linguine for $24.

Appetizers include cold selections of antipasto _ samples from a table of hors d'oeuvres ($5.95), fresh sliced mozzarella over tomato and basil ($6.50) and smoked trout with capers, onions, lemon and a "special" sauce ($7.95). Hot appetizers like calamari with hot marinara sauce ($5.75), a pasta sampler ($6.50) and baked Brie with roasted garlic butter and flatbread ($6.95) also are available.

The pasta dishes range from noodles with garlic, basil, bacon, onions and marinara sauce ($10.95) to linguine with seafood and red or white sauce ($15.50).

Chicken is offered in several versions, including Pollo Alla Scarpariello ($12.95), sauteed in garlic, mushrooms, sausage, lemon and white wine sauce, and Pollo Parmigiana (also $12.95).

Along with the Scaloppine Carino, the restaurant offers Scaloppine Piccata ($14.95) prepared with a white wine and lemon sauce; veal stuffed with prosciutto, basil and garlic cheese ($15.95); and traditional Veal Parmigiana ($14.95).

Carino's offers a list of Italian wines by the glass or bottle and imported and domestic beers.

A children's menu features pasta and chicken dishes from $6.50 to $8.25.

Carino's has a nice family atmosphere. Provided that dessert table is ready, we'll be back.

Carino's Italian Cafe

9524 Blind Pass Road, St. Pete Beach

Phone: (727) 360-8502

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. daily

Number of consumers: Two

What we got: Baked lasagne with meat sauce, veal with shiitake mushrooms and artichoke hearts in a white wine sauce, bread, salad, chocolate cheesecake

What it cost: $33.04

Time it took: 20 minutes

Pay with: Cash, major credit cards

Delivery: No