What's happening in Tampa Bay food this weekend: Midnight Chef Fight at Il Ritorno, TacoFest

Il Ritorno chef and co-owner David Benstock, pictured, faces off against Cena executive chef Michael Buttacavoli during the first Midnight Chef Fight battle in St. Petersburg on Saturday. [Courtesy of Il Ritorno]
Il Ritorno chef and co-owner David Benstock, pictured, faces off against Cena executive chef Michael Buttacavoli during the first Midnight Chef Fight battle in St. Petersburg on Saturday. [Courtesy of Il Ritorno]
Published May 2, 2019

DIG IN: Riverfest romps

As part of Tampa Riverfest, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, plays host to the second annual TacoFest, where chips and queso, a free fixings bar and six types of tacos are offered from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. What a way to pregame for Cinco de Mayo. $10 three tacos, $15 five tacos.

U Rock at popular Tampa Heights restaurant Ulele, 1810 N Highland Ave., also takes place in conjunction with the celebration along the Hillsborough River. This outdoor concert features a stacked lineup of musicians to benefit the Lupus Foundation of America. VIP tickets include heavy hors d'oeuvres and pours of house beer. $100. 2-6 p.m. Saturday.


Need somewhere to watch the Churchill Downs race with an adult beverage on Saturday? High above Tampa's Epicurean Hotel, EDGE Rooftop Cocktail Lounge has the Kentucky Derby Party planned. The first 25 guests — who are encouraged to arrive in their finest Derby digs, since prizes go to Best Hat and Best Pants — score a mint julep on the house. Expect DJ tunes and four TVs showing the main event. $5 parking. 2-4 p.m. 1207 S Howard Ave. (813) 999-8700.

A mint julep bar is the big draw of another Kentucky Derby Party. It's one of the signature events for newly updated St. Petersburg hangout Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails. Look forward to Derby attire contests, a live projection of the action and Modern Brine oysters, too. 4-8 p.m. 1111 Central Ave. (727) 873-6664.

BRING THE HEAT: Midnight Chef Fight

Inspired by Esquire Network series Knife Fight, Midnight Chef Fight brings a late-night kitchen throwdown to Il Ritorno after dinner service concludes. The contemporary Italian restaurant's new series of battles begins with a competition between its chef and co-owner, David Benstock, and Cena executive chef Michael Buttacavoli. With less than an hour to work with, Buttacavoli and Benstock must each incorporate at least one of two secret ingredients into two dishes, judged on creativity, execution and plating by a panel of other local chefs. Chefs Chris Fernandez (Red Mesa) and Courtney Orwig (Haven) will duke it out June 8 during the next fight. "This series has been a dream of ours for a while," Benstock said in a statement. "We love any chance to collaborate and bring chefs in the area together to offer a new experience for our guests. But more than that, we wanted to give back to our community and do some good." Admission at the door gets you passed appetizers, and there's also a cash bar. Benefits various Tampa Bay charities, starting with the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. $20. 11 p.m. Saturday. 449 Central Ave., Suite 101, St. Petersburg. (727) 897-5900.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Clearwater Beach Taste Fest

Clearwater Beach Taste Fest, now in its 10th year, spotlights generous samples of culinary delights, both laid-back and high-end, from 30-plus area restaurants. Wine and beer accompany the grub while C'Nergy provides the tunes. $35, $15 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. 6 p.m. Friday. Pier 60 Park, Causeway Boulevard. (727) 447-7600.

GULP AND GOBBLE: St. Pete Beach Beer Fest

Drink your way around the St. Pete Beach Beer Fest's bill of more than 50 local craft brews, but don't forget about the food trucks. You help crown the Best of the Beach award winner as well. VIP tickets include access to special releases. $30-$35, $75 VIP, $5 designated driver. 2 p.m. Saturday. Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. (727) 202-8045.

Dig in to Tampa Bay’s food and drink scenes

Dig in to Tampa Bay’s food and drink scenes

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DEC'D OUT: Crawfish Boil

Tampa Bay Club Sport pairs fresh crawfish prepared by Louisiana chefs with corn, potatoes and andouille sausage for its Crawfish Boil, presented throughout outdoor sports facility the Rec Dec. The inaugural gathering, capped at 150 guests, offers Cajun gumbo and dessert, alongside beer, cider, hard seltzer and wine. Adults and kids alike can play games like cornhole, giant Jenga and volleyball. $30-$55. 1-8 p.m. Saturday. 380 105th Terrace NE, St. Petersburg.

PLANT POWER: Herb Day St. Pete

Vendors gather at the 14th annual Herb Day St. Pete to showcase their medicinal and edible plants and herbal remedies. Raffles benefiting the Florida Herb Society and the local American Herbalists Guild chapter and classes round out the festivities. Free. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday. Traditions School of Herbal Studies, 2520 Central Ave, St. Petersburg. (757) 551-0857.

EX-STRAW-DINARY: Mega milkshakes at Smokey Bones

Tampa Bay locations for Smokey Bones have rolled out a trio of outrageously topped vanilla milkshakes, billed as "mega milkshakes." Chocolate layer cake finished with an M&M rim and chocolate cake slice, Oreo cookie with an Oreo rim and Oreo whipped cream and vanilla stacked doughnut with a sprinkle rim and cinnamon-sugar doughnuts are the featured flavors. You can even spike them with vodka, bourbon, rum or Kahlúa. The casual barbecue chain operates in Clearwater, Tampa and Brandon.