Like a South Tampa housewife, the multitudinous botox injections and tummy tuck transformed this otherwise dull, staid dining face. Armani's has always had one of the most picturesque views from any dining room in Tampa, situated high above the Bay, so it's not like the location could fail. But it's as if they finally realized the 21st century had arrived and departed the stodgy, Victorian-esque private club of yore.
[image-1]Sven Ullrich, Executive Chef at Armani's since April 2007, will remain at the helm. But for the menu overhaul, management brought in Maximo Lopez May, the chef of the Gioia Restaurante & Terrazas in the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires, to train the kitchen crew on the new menu and Northern Italian cooking techniques. At a formal wine dinner organized just for the re-opening occasion, chefs presented local red snapper with impeccably prepared saffron risotto, savory, five-spice dusted wild boar short ribs and a breathtaking Italian cheese tart. Gorgeous, meticulously prepared food but admittedly, I didn't sample the regular menu items. But I tasted definite promise.
By the glass wine list is an interesting yet stereotypically overpriced selection of Italian and New World wines. Highlights include Leal Vineyards Syrah ($15), Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino ($12), La Tunella Pinot Grigio ($10), and Domaine Carneros Sparkling Wine ($15).
Like many other fine dining restaurants in Tampa Bay, Armani's is desperately trying to transition from the "special occasion" image they've been shackled with for years, to a place where you'd go on a weeknight. Armani's only retained 30 percent of the former menu items, so they're serious about updating the place. Changing their reputation might be challenging but if the food is consistently as good as what I tasted, they might have a chance.