Dining Guide

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Tuscan Oven, 808 S. Howard Ave. (813-251-0619). A wood-burning oven is the heart of the kitchen, adding flavor and crusty texture to breads, pizzas, roasted meats, seafoods and vegetables. Try slow-cooked Osso Buco or creamy four cheese pasta and for dessert, a warm, sweet polenta bread pudding with seasonal berries. Dinner entrees range from $6.99 to $12.99 $$

The Wine Exchange, 1611 W. Swann Ave. (813-254-9463). David Tyler and crew pair fine wines with good food. For appetizers try the country stufel, wild mushrooms in pastry with a horseradish sauce or their spicy island cakes with jerked crab in honey yogurt sauce. There are soups, salads, innovative pizzas, pastas and a good choice of savory entrees, including a grilled lamb tenderloin with a cream sauce over fettuccini. $$

Tampa — Seminole Heights

Ansley's Natural Marketplace, 402 Sligh Ave. E. (813-239-2700), and 3936 Kennedy Blvd., Tampa (813-879-6625). Large, natural food stores with exceptional produce. The Sligh location also has a bakery with good whole-grain breads, carrot loafs and such. Good takeout prepared foods with plenty of flavor and variety. $

Rigo's Eatery, 6607 N. Florida Ave. (813-236-7446; www.rigoseatery.com). This arty little eatery is terribly tiny. Good thing they have a big garden patio out back. Inside, you can order scrumptious breakfast and brunch foods like made-to-order French toast and waffles, eggs Benedict, breakfast sandwiches and more. Lunch and dinner offer big, tasty sandwiches, several "meals-in-a-minute" for the on-the-go diner, and for dessert, old-fashioned ice cream sundaes with plenty of ooey-gooey toppings. Not too hungry? The easygoing atmosphere makes it a swell place to stop for a cafe con leche and slice of tiramisu while you read the Weekly Planet. $

South Tampa/Palma Ceia/ Interbay

Al Bacio, 3211 Bay to Bay Blvd. (813-839-8486). Yet another in the new mode of gourmet pizzerias, using fine ingredients and fresh ideas to create tasty pies, like the Latin Lover, an ultra-thin crust topped with garlic cream sauce, caramelized onions, Cuban mojo roast pork and a sprinkle of cheese. The flirtatious might like a Flirtation, an ultra-thin crust brushed with fragrant olive oil, covered with caramelized onions and dotted with olive tapenade and goat cheese. Salads, sandwiches, coffee and desserts, as well, can be enjoyed on the outdoor terrace. $

Bec's, 6211 S. MacDill Ave. (813-837-2700). This tiny place (three tables inside, more on a charming outdoor patio) is open seven days a week. Grab-n-go morning drivers will love the palmlettes, calzone-like breakfast sandwiches stuffed with delicious combos of eggs, meat, cheeses and veggies. For brunch, try baked egg souffles with a variety of meats, cheeses and veggies, or baked French toast with cinnamon custard and a topping, either banana pecan or Vermont cinnamon apple, both with whipped cream. Lox and bagel lovers will appreciate the generous Nova platter. For lunch, try dough-zers, big, overstuffed pockets with tasty, creative fillings. $

Cafe B.T., 3324 W. Gandy Blvd. (813-831-9254). B.T. Nguyen will graciously welcome you to her casual, yet sophisticated cafe and introduce you to the fresh fusion flavors of French and Vietnamese cuisine. At lunch, try light fare like salads packed with a profusion of fragrant herbs and fresh dressings. At dinner, focus on some of the most creative daily specials around. Our favorites include duck breast with a buttery mango sauce and baby grilled lobster tails spiked with Dubonnet. A wine list is available. Entrees range from $12.95 to $24.95. $$

Caffe Italia, 3114 Bay to Bay Blvd. (813-831-0600). Leave it to savvy chef/owner Andre to create some of the most awesome cuisine "Italiano" in town. For starters try the melanzane, thinly sliced eggplant in extra virgin olive oil. Continue with the radicchio and endive salad. Follow with at least one pasta selection, like Andre's cappellacci di zucca, homemade spinach pasta with squash in a light tomato cream sauce. $$$

Caffe Paradiso, 4205 S. MacDill Ave. (813-835-6622). Delectable Northern Italian cuisine can be had in this cozy trattoria-style ristorante. Pastas are fresh, veal is simply exquisite and seafood is, well, magnifico! $$

Cesare's of New York, 2117 S. Dale Mabry (813-254-2141). Cesare made his way from Italy to New York, then to Tampa. Their loss is our gain, as evidenced in his crusty New York-style pizza dough, tomato sauces, and his deft hand at putting it all together. Fresh spinach with double cheese and tomato sauce is the house specialty. $

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