Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bernini: A Happy Marriage of Art and Food

After running five miles yesterday morning in what only could have been 100 percent humidity, I did what every diet guru tells you not to do:  I rewarded myself with food.  Hubmeister invited me to lunch and had me choose the restaurant.  I picked Bernini, one of my favorite Ybor City haunts.

Housed in an historic bank building, Bernini exudes the Roman charm of its namesake, Giovanni Bernini, a 17th-century Italian sculptor, architect and painter.  Prints and sculptures attributed to this influential Baroque artist peer down at you while you savor the mouthwatering sights, smells and tastes emerging from the laudable kitchen.  

Here is Bernini's David, ready to pounce on my pasta:

The two-story setting features an attractive full-liquor bar running the length of the first floor, with tables and a wood-burning pizza oven comprising the remaining space.  Plenty of windows usher in natural light, as well as the lively street scenes of  Ybor City.  And lively is a mild word to describe Ybor at night.  Upstairs seating also is available, and Hubmeister, who went snooping on the second floor on another occasion, informed me that they have transformed an old bank vault into wine cellar-type storage.

Sitting at our table, staring longingly at that pizza oven (see it at the far end of the bar?), I was tempted to try the pizza, but opted for the pescatore, a pasta dish to which I gravitate.  It's hard to resist seafood and linguine dressed in a red clam sauce.

Served tongue-burning hot, right off the stove, this dish features the heavenly combination of linguine, shrimp, fish, clams and mussels.  The zesty clam sauce had just the right amount of garlic and pepper to complement the seafood.  If we hadn't already demolished the fresh Italian bread, which was accompanied by a saucer of rich, basil-infused olive oil, I would have sopped up every last drop of that savory sauce.  There wasn't much seafood left, either.  The shrimp was plump and succulent, the mussels tasty, the clams tender, and the fish, well, it was salmon.   I would have preferred a white fish, but the rest of the dish made up for it. 

The photo below is my meal in progress.  It looked much prettier when it first arrived at the table.

Hubmeister raved about his selection, Jason's Favorite Pasta.  This offering featured angel hair pasta tossed in a marinara sauce of garlic, basil, olive oil and Parmesan.  A typical sauce, this one was distinguishable by a pleasing hint of sweetness.  He added the optional chicken, which was unnecessary and unfortunately, overcooked. 

In addition to pasta, lunch offerings include appetizers, sandwiches, salads and creatively topped pizza.  Although the eatery had a sparse crowd on this visit, Bernini usually bustles with activity, especially at night.  The dinner menu features such classic Italian favorites as osso buco, veal lasagna and a killer veal chop.

Service is friendly and efficient.  Servers wear shirts emblazoned with the saying, "Where Taste Is a Matter of Art."  At Bernini, I delight in both, making it worth every huff and puff of that grueling morning jog.

Restaurant Info:
Bernini of Ybor
1702 East 7th Avenue

Bernini on Urbanspoon

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