In case you missed it: FarmTable Kitchen has rebranded as the Italian-forward FarmTable Cucina. The second-level restaurant portion of downtown St. Pete’s Locale Market now features an expanded patio dining area with more cushy seats, updated food and drink menus, and additional nooks for those seeking a more intimate meal — on top of the ticketed, still-splurgy Chef’s Table, booked by a happy lot of eaters on Thursday night, when CL stopped in for a tasting with celebrity chef-partner Michael Mina.
According to executive chef Jeffrey Hileman, FarmTable’s latest evolution doesn’t dilute the experience of the casual, full-service restaurant, a concern some people might’ve had following the Cucina announcement. Is this one of the several changes Locale has made since Mina and his fellow chef-partner, Don Pintabona, opened the anticipated gourmet foodporium in 2014? Yeah. But Hileman said that he thinks FarmTable will continue to help elevate the Tampa Bay dining scene, a community he referred to as phenomenal and supportive.
Cucina is what the restaurant has wanted to be from the beginning, anyway — as Mina put it.
“What’s funny is this was almost the original design, and then we opened the market in the restaurant more. And you lose something when you do that — just from the point of view of, like, the staff. People walk through the restaurant with sheet pans in their hands, you know?” he said. “So I think that as time went on we just said, ‘Look, we wanna really define the restaurant, define the restaurant space, define the cuisine.’ ’Cause it was always kind of heading in this direction.”
Taking over a larger portion of public space upstairs with patio seating was a huge win, too.
“That was the biggest thing that really pulled this all together,” Mina said.
Here are three dishes you can’t go wrong with ordering from FarmTable Cucina’s refreshed lineup of eats, which is rustic, family-style and influenced by seasonally, regionally sourced ingredients. I somehow refrained from gushing about the moan-worthy focaccia bread made in-house (it was a tough ask) — but order that, too, while you’re at it.
BRICK STREET FARMS LITTLE GEM LETTUCE
A great vegetarian option at the restaurant. Spicy shaved zucchini, ricotta salata and Calabrian chile are in the spotlight, as well as local greens from St. Pete-based Brick Street Farms. Found under the starters section, the well-seasoned salad is simple, but way memorable. It’s a party in your mouth, with a little welcome kick.
13-OUNCE CREEKSTONE RANCH PRIME BONE-IN FILET
At 13 ounces, this is one helluva cut — not to mention fork tender thanks to the wood-fired grill it's cooked on. Served up alongside a small bunch of dehydrated campari tomatoes and pearl onions, the filet is complemented by a rich red wine jus that you just want more of.
House-made broccoli ravioli — one of the menu’s six pasta options — arrives warm and perfectly married with taleggio cheese, summer truffles, charred broccoli for some added texture, and an ah-mazing brown butter. Two words: Brown. Butter. Need I say more?