I have always been close to my family. I talk to mom on the phone quite frequently, something on the average of once a day. The setup we had in Richmond was one where we would see my parents at least twice a month, and towards the end of last year, we were seeing them once a week, as they would come and help with babysitting duties.
Moving to Tampa changed all that. We would now see them less frequently in terms of visits, but actual hours spent with them might increase. Instead of 4 hours a shot, now they would visit for 8 days at a time. 8 days takes its toll. Don’t get me wrong, we had a good time, but normalcy, routines and rhythm all took a hike when they were in town.
Saturday was probably my favorite day with them because I didn’t have that work thing to get in the way. We started off the day by driving to St. Petersburg to check out Mazzaro’s Italian Market (which was open this time). My parents were in heaven! They were buying deli items, fresh pasta, prepared foods, desserts, coffee. They were chatting it up with anybody and everybody. It was perfect. This place was no joke.
I ‘m hoping to put Mazzaro’s on the bi-weekly schedule, and that’s only because I discovered Caccitore Brothers Market (15 minutes away). Mazzaro’s bakery is perfect and reminds me of visiting Grandma in Utica, NY. They have the cannolis, the rum cakes, the Italian cookies, etc. Fortunately for me, I consider most of that stuff delectable poison (carbs are the devil) and will limit myself to indulge very, very infrequently. Their fresh pasta section is great, and I splurged on some squid ink linguine the first day off of my detox. It really is a good thing that I have too much pride in my cooking, because i never have felt the allure of the prepared food section as much as I did here.
So yes, the food part.
Tampa was hosting its Restaurant Week and having the folks around allowed me to take Mrs. Marinara out for a real meal. We settled on Wimauma, mostly because of their New Southern Cuisine. I had been missing The Roosevelt, Comfort and Lemaire.
I tried not to do much research about the place, and so I was a bit surprised that they didn’t serve liquor. I was really jonesing for a nice bourbon. I was, however, impressed by their commitment to keeping a large supply of local beers on tap.
I wasn’t feeling the three-course restaurant week menu. Mostly because I was trying to stay on task and not indulge in a full dessert following my detox. So for me, it was three small plates: Roasted Beet Salad w Homemade Cottage Cheese, Candied Pecans, Wild Arugula, & Orange Blossom Honey Vinaigrette; Salt & Pepper Fried Okra w Cilantro, Scallion, Jalapeno, Fried Garlic & Shallot; and Sweet Chili-Lime Glazed Spare Ribs on Green Papaya Salad w Fried Garlic & Crushed Peanuts. Mrs. Marinara had Crispy Fried Florida Oysters w/ Guacamole, Cilantro & Smoked Tomato Jam; Bacon Crusted Mahi-Mahi w/ Jalapeno-Cheddar Spoonbread & Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce; and Pickled Peach & Cornbread Upside Down Cake served w Sweet Cream Ice Cream and Peach Bourbon Sauce.
It all sounds pretty decadent, right? This was nice with its heavy southern comfort food, mixed with a little bit of Asian and Latin to boot. For one night I didn’t miss my old jaunts in Richmond. This food was really good, and I was surprised at the level of execution considering it was the first night of restaurant week.
Of all the food we tried, the okra and the short ribs stood out. The thinly sliced okra was plated in way that reminded me of a Sichuan dish, but it held to true to its savory southern roots. The ribs on the other hand were sticky and gooey and were unmistakingly Asian. If anything these were too heavy and rich, but I only say that because I couldn’t finish the dish.
Everything else was a little bit of a blur. The service didn’t stand out, good or bad. The location itself was cozy but nothing remarkable about it. I wouldn’t hesitate making a return trip, maybe this time asking the chef to put together a meal for me.