Pasta Paradise

Amidst the many chain restaurants that can be found near campus lies a quaint alternative to everyday Italian. Near restaurants like Carrabba’s and Outback Steakhouse, Antonio’s Pasta Grille offers made-from-scratch home-cooked Italian dishes that rival any restaurant in Italy.

“We do a little bit of northern Italian, which is the cream and butter sauces, and a little bit of the southern Italian, which is the thick hearty red sauce, so we try to cover a full basis of both parts of Italy,” said General Manager James Montevago.

The bistro offers a romantic ambiance, with dimmed lighting, dark walls and private booths: a perfect place for a first date or anniversary. There is also a private room in the back for larger parties like graduations or reunions. Although it is described as casual dining, sleek and savvy décor with hanging lights and Romanesque pillars give the restaurant a metro upper-class feel, so leave the shorts and flip flops at home. Friendly service adds to the atmosphere as waiters take care of your every need.

The price ranges from $9.99 to $27.95 for dinner, with the average entrée around $15, and $6.95 to $10.95 for lunch. Sound too pricey? Don’t worry, everyone with a USF ID gets 20 percent off his or her bill. Also, the tremendous portions make sure customers get the most for their money.

“As a college student who is always looking for the best buck, you can probably get up to two to three meals out of a dish,” said Montevago.

A vast wine selection complements the different aspects of every dish. “Our wine selection is both from Italy, Australia and California. We change it usually twice to three times a year to keep things rotating. We bring in a lot of wine specials; we usually run a feature every day (for) lunch and dinner … so it gives guests different choices from the wine list, and we try to stay away from supermarket wines. We try to bring in things that are hard to get or very popular,” said Montevago.

Customers are started with warm bread and a dipping sauce made of vinegar and herbs, similar to Carrabba’s. The calamari was different, though, with almost no breading and different spices that made the squid taste fishy, if you’re a seafood lover, no bad thing. The huge portion of fettuccini alfredo was surprisingly filling. The alfredo sauce was excellent, which made the main course wonderful.

I strongly recommend checking out this local piece of Italy. Just remember what James Montevago said, “Friends don’t let friends eat at chains.”

Antonio’s Pasta Grille
11401 56th Street North
(813) 914-8899

Rating: A