Dining Guide

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Pipo's Latin Cafe, 238 E. Davis Blvd. (813-253-8100). At lunch, expect Pipo's traditional Cuban cafeteria-style food and service, with large servings, modest prices and the best mojo roast pork in the Bay area. The food goes upscale with an infusion of Latin, Caribbean and Old World influences. $$

Tate Brothers Pizza, 233 Davis Blvd., Suite A (813-251-2767). This casual eat-in/takeout pizza place is family-owned and operated. No Ragu and frozen bread dough here. Sauces, meatballs and crusts are homemade. Toppings are fresh and good quality, like first-rate cheeses, pepperoni and, God bless them, fresh garlic on the pizza! Yummy breadsticks, soft and dripping with butter. Calzones as big as the plate are a meal in themselves. $Downtown Tampa

Mise en Place, 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 250 (813-254-5373). Owners Marty and Marianne Blitz create a culinary happening in this smart brasserie-style eatery. Billed as a "Neo-American Bistro," Mise En Place is located just across from the University of Tampa. $$$

East Tampa

V.P.'s Country Barbecue and Catering, 7117 U.S. 301 N. and Sligh Ave. (813-626-1996). Vasko and Emilia Popov bring a bit of Bulgarian spice to old-fashioned American barbecue. Lamb, pork, beef and ribs are slow roasted, smoked and spiced with the chef's secret sauce. Picnic under palm-thatched shelters among wide-spreading oak trees or go inside and see the spotless barbecue kitchen. Whole, spit-roasted lambs are a catering specialty. $ 1/2

Tampa — Hyde Park

42nd Street Bistro, 516 S. Howard Ave. (813-253-0042). Plenty of food and action at this 1940s-style New York bistro. Not only do these ladies-in-the-know serve some of the best martinis and manhattans this side of the Bay, but gourmet pizzas, salads and entrees are innovative as well as downright delectable. Superb desserts; perfect for after the theater. $$$

Antipasto's, 2202 W. Platt St. (813-259-1168). The name says Italian, but your taste buds will tell you Dwight and Lauren Otis from Next City Grill are back to their old tricks, exciting us with fresh, unexpected twists. Eighteen starters include fantastic hot and cold soups, cold vegetable nibbles and small pizzas on flatbread. "Meals In A Bowl" pair homemade pastas with fresh sauces, veal, homemade meatballs and fresh vegetables. Good beer and wine list. Starters range from $3 to $7. Entrees range from $7 to $12. $$

Bacchus Sushi and Noodles, 720 S. Howard Ave. (813- 254-0004). Expect flash and fusion in both food and decor at this high-energy addition to the late-night dining scene. The menu has an Asian accent but offers American-friendly sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodle bowls, along with big steaks and pork cutlets. Most dishes come in small portions for one-from-column-A and two-from-column-B fun, but Bacchanalian appetites will appreciate the huge, whole snapper wok-sauteed, with crispy noodles, vegetables and a savory sauce. Prices range from $6 to $19. $$

Bella's, 1413 S. Howard Ave. (813-254-3355). After 11 years, this South Howard favorite still packs 'em in with tasty pasta and casual ambiance. Try the fine fettuccine Bolognese, or pasta il mare, shrimp and scallops with leeks and mushrooms in a roasted tomato cream sauce. Definitely save room for dessert! Dinner entrees from $6.75 to $12.95. $$

Bern's Steak House, 1208 S. Howard Ave. (813-251-2421). Famous for its wines and prime steaks, this restaurant is one of the most remarkable in the world. A perennial Wine Spectator award-winner, the new 212-page wine list weighs in at about 8 pounds with approximately 7,000 selections. There's a superb list of caviar from around the world, a selection of 1,800 dessert wines and spirits, an antiquarian bookstore and a huge selection of outrageous desserts in the upstairs dessert room. $$$

Blue Gardenia, 1809 W. Platt St. (813-250-1595). In both mood and food, the Blue Gardenia offers a perfect mix of subtle sophistication and casual fun as a husband-and-wife team of chefs serve up their own take on tasty. Pass an order of four slipper lobster Popsicles around the table while you study the menu, then feast on succulent duck breast bathed in a rosemary, orange and balsamic reduction and served with gingered sweet potatoes, or try the towering filet of yellow fin tuna served atop a Maine lobster Tater Tot. Save room for desserts like ginger chocolate ganache tart with whipped ginger chocolate cream, or simply linger with a fine aged port.

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant, 2109 Bayshore Blvd. (813-250-0203), on the ground floor of the Royal Condominium. The owners of Le Bordeaux turn their attention to Spain, with authentic tapas and great sangria. Start a theater date with a few tapas and a glass of wine, and return later for dinner entrees, like wood-roasted baby lamb. Open after 5 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday. $$$

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