Mazzaro’s Italian Market

Mazzaro’s Italian Market on 22nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg, Florida is genuine trip into an Old World European market. The only market like this that Ample Bites has experienced in the U.S. is Freddy’s Pizzeria in Cicero, Illinois (see earlier post). Mazzaro’s is Freddy’s “on steroids”.

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Mazzaro’s offerings include produce, a full butcher counter, fresh and frozen seafood, coffee roasting, a coffee bar, beers and wines, cheeses, a bakery, a deli, and a counter with prepared foods and fresh-made pasta. On top of all of the aforementioned delicacies is a vast selection of canned goods and grocery items, most of which are Italian favorites and brands.

Ample Bites made a first (and definitely not a last) visit at the tail end of the lunch hour and the place was packed with patrons. The prepared food counter and deli were 15 to 20 people deep. Many were ordering a sandwich or pasta for lunch. Some where picking up prepared items for dinner tonight. The traditional Italian favorites like Eggplant Parmesan, the Meatball Sandwich with Sauce and Provolone, and the Panini all looked delicious but the seared Sesame Tuna Wasabi, which is served on grilled bread with pickled ginger and alfalfa sprouts, caught my eye.

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The coffee bar was full of folks enjoying an espresso or cappuccino and a pastry. Many appeared to be people watching or observing the adjacent bakery and fresh pasta preparation areas.

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The sweet bakery items are all authentic and beautifully prepared. The fresh pasta shapes seemed endless and the fresh pasta dishes looked amazing. The Cheese Manicotti with Lobster looked particularly intriguing to Ample Bites.

The wine cellar and cheese area was a very active area. The cheeses ranged from prepackaged brands to fresh mozzarella, provolone and many varieties of aged gorgonzola. The wine selection is not huge but Mazzaro’s sells a quality spectrum from a domestic Napa Valley offering to Tuscan Chianti Classico and Brunello.

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Outside the store is a small covered seating area where patrons can dine-in and enjoy prepared items.

A thirty-minute spin through Mazzaro’s barely scratched the surface of the Italian market experience. Thankfully I had just finished lunch or my basket would have been filled with much, much more than the Gorgonzola Cheese Spread, a prepared pizza (to be frozen and baked later), a can of clam stock, a loaf of fresh-baked bread, two dark chocolate candy bars, a block of Fontina cheese, a jar of San Marco pizza sauce, some Farina 00 flour, and a bottle of 2011 Banfi DOCG Chianti Superiore.

Thankfully these provisions won’t last very long and a return visit will be necessary soon.

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Mushroom Stroganoff with Pasta

Growing up Ample Bites always loved Mom’s beef stroganoff, which she served over rice. Mushroom Stroganoff with Pasta is a little different version of the classic dish using mushrooms and pasta. The keys to this recipe are to cook the mushrooms to caramelization and to thoroughly mix the cooked pasta in the stroganoff sauce before serving.

If you want to accompany this dish with a protein, consider broiling or grilling pork chops or chicken thighs.

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Mushroom Stroganoff with Pasta
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

8 ounces dried whole wheat pasta (linguine or spaghetti preferred)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot finely diced
16 ounces white button mushrooms
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fat-free sour cream
2 tsp Dijon-style or grainy mustard
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots, cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste, stirring to incorporate. Cook stirring every minute or so for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms moisture evaporates. Once they start to brown remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in the sour cream and mustard, along with the parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of cooking water. Use tongs to toss the linguine in the mushroom mixture, adding the reserved cooking liquid as needed to keep the dish moist.

Garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve immediately.

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O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille – Gulfport, FL

O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport, Florida is a classic beachside pub that serves well-prepared, eclectic food along with more than a dozen draft beers, an extensive wine list, and the full variety of beach cocktails.

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Ample Bites visited on a Tuesday, which is the day that Gulfport holds their Fresh Market along Beach Drive. The market features local artists, handmade Florida trinkets, a few food tents, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The stores along Beach Drive are packed with art and souvenirs appealing to most any shopper. Because the market was being held O’Maddy’s was packed and we had about a 30 minute wait to be seated. The wait was worth it!

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Two of us enjoyed the Lobster BLT and we concurred that it was like a Lobster Roll on steriods. The sandwich had a ton of lobster in it. It had just enough mayonnaise on the lobster salad but not too much and the applewood smoked bacon was a perfect accompaniment for the ripe tomato slices. It was served with a side of perfectly crispy french fries.

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Others in our party enjoyed two different fish sandwiches. The Triple-Tail Sandwich featured a flaky white fish that was served on a hefty marble rye bread with a pesto aioli and provolone cheese. The other was the Florida classic Grouper Sandwich.

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While we dined we noticed that that burgers looked amazing and their was even a Lobster and Bacon Pizza, which is likely to be sampled by Ample Bites on a return visit.

If you ever venture to Gulfport make sure to walk down Beach Drive to the old casino on the end of the street, take a left and go the block and a half to O’Maddy’s and enjoy the experience. Finally, just a quick tip, make sure to bring a hat and sunglasses because most of the tables are right out in the beautiful, warm Florida sun.

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Cajun Shrimp and Feta over Pasta

Cajun Shrimp and Feta over Pasta is a simple and tasty preparation for shrimp. Once the shrimp are peeled and deveined, this dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. The Cajun seasoning gives the shrimp a little kick and the feta cheese combines with the dry vermouth to make a light and slightly creamy sauce. Served with some warm crusty bread and a glass of Chianti, this recipe is perfect for outdoor dining on a cool coastal evening.

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Cajun Shrimp and Feta over Pasta
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine, October 2012)

Serves 4

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic , minced
1 ½ pounds medium fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ tsp Cajun seasoning
1 cup chopped green onion
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1 cup feta cheese
½ pound cooked whole wheat spaghetti

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Raise heat to high and add shrimp and Cajun seasoning; cook 3 minutes or until cooked through. Add green onion and vermouth, and cook for 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and stir in feta cheese until melted. Serve over pasta.

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400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, St. Petersburg, FL

Ample Bites has visited 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House in St. Petersburg, Florida on a couple different occasions and the food and drink has been consistently good.

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This well-located restaurant sits adjacent to the beautiful and historic Vinoy Hotel just a few steps from the marina and just down the street from the Chihuly Gallery.

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This beautifully appointed modern restaurant has a full wine list, a large variety of draft beers, and a menu that includes great seafood choices. During our most recent cocktail hour visit we started with a dozen gulf oysters. These oysters where not too large, very fresh and suited us as the perfect appetizer. We then shared a seafood ceviche that was a mix of bay scallops and shrimp in an Asian mango-citrus marinade. The ceviche was topped with a dash of seaweed salad (an Ample Bites favorite). Finally, we enjoyed some smallish crab cakes with a spicy remoulade sauce.

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I chose a Left Hand Milk Stout from the extensive draft beer list and my wife enjoyed a glass of the Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon.

I highly recommend 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House to anyone who is planning to spend a day or evening in downtown St. Petersburg.

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Gumbo – Enough Said!

Are you looking for a recipe for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Try Shrimp Gumbo. This recipe is a slight adaptation of version of gumbo prepared by my friend, Tebo. It is perfect for any occasion.

I don’t have a picture of the dish but I can show you where I would prefer to eat my Shrimp Gumbo.

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Shrimp Gumbo
(Adapted from Tebo’s Seafood Gumbo)

Serves 10

2 ½ to 3 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ lbs of smoked turkey sausage, sliced ½” thick
2 large onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid
1 medium bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
4 cups sliced okra (optional)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp liquid crab boil
½ cup canola oil
5/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ quarts of Shrimp Stock
4 bay leaves

After peeling shrimp, save the shells and heads for the Shrimp Stock. Prepare the Shrimp Stock by boiling them in 3 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon of the crab boil for about 15 minutes, set aside and allow the stock to cool. Strain the stock before using.

Place the onions and garlic in one container, place tomatoes, bell pepper and green onion in a second container, and place okra in a third container. Mix seasonings (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and the remaining crab boil) and set aside.

Make roux by heating oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly until the roux is very dark brown. Be careful not to burn the roux. Alternatively, the roux can be made in a microwave by thoroughly mixing the oil and flour in an ovenproof container. Heat on HIGH in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove the roux and stir it thoroughly. Repeat the process in one-minute intervals until the desire color of roux is reached.

In a heavy Dutch oven, add the onions and garlic to the roux. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the onions are caramelized, about 12 minutes. Again, be careful not to burn the roux. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and green onions. Add the shrimp stock, okra, seasonings and bay leaves and stir thoroughly. Bring the gumbo to a boil.

While the gumbo is coming to a boil, brown the turkey sausage in a skillet with some canola oil. Drain the sausage on a paper towel-covered plate and add the sausage to the gumbo. Reduce the heat and simmer the gumbo, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Before serving bring the gumbo back to a boil and add the peeled shrimp. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the shrimp are pink. Let stand 15-30 minutes and remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve 8-10 ounces of gumbo with about 1/3 cup of rice. Add file and hot sauce to taste.

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Basil Prosciutto and Fried Egg Pizza

I first saw a pizza with a fried egg in the middle of it during a year abroad my senior year of college. At the time I thought the idea was nuts until I tasted it. It was really quite good. The runny egg yolk melded perfectly with the pizza toppings and crust. Below is my recipe for Basil Prosciutto and Fried Egg Pizza. You can fry an egg on any type of pizza but I particularly like this one because the ingredients are very simple and complimentary to the egg.

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Basil Prosciutto and Fried Egg Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 pizza dough, divided into equal crusts
4 large egg
12 ounces pizza sauce
4 slice prosciutto, cut into ½-inch wide strips
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
16 pats of fresh mozzarella cheese

Prepare pizza dough and divide the dough into four equal crusts. Preheat oven to 500F. Preheat pizza stone for about 20 minutes.

Brush each crust with olive oil using a pastry brush. Take care to brush all the way to the edges. Ladle a pizza sauce on the crust and spread to a thin layer with the back of the ladle. Place strips of prosciutto, pieces of basil and pats of mozzarella on each crust and season generously with salt and pepper. Slide the pizzas, one at a time, onto the pizza stone.

Bake each pizza individually for about 10 – 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted but not yet golden. Remove the pizza and crack one egg over the center of the pizza. Bake until the egg white is set and yolk is still soft. Before serving, drizzle with oil.

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