Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Visitor in Tampa

Back from Colorado for the Holiday, was great to see all the family together, we missed our Aunt and Uncle who couldn't make the trip, and also an amazing White Christmas, snowed about a foot all day Christmas Morning!

Arriving back in Tampa at 730am Wednesday morning(took the red-eye back from Denver), my buddy Larry from LA came into Tampa for a few days. We went over to Mad Dogs and Englishmen for a nice long lunch outside on the patio, and as always great food(Curry Chicken Salad, large enough to split for two, and juicy chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries), our server Summer was not her typical happy self, but who wants to work the day after Christmas..Larry and I were able to put a smile on her face by the end of the meal. Afterwards we went across the street to The Junction for some coffee and home made ice cream. This evening we met up with some friends, all in town for the Holiday, in Ybor City. Dinner was outside at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in the courtyard of Centro Ybor. It was eerily quiet in Ybor this Wednesday evening, the food and service were once again excellent at the Brew Co. After dinner, a few of us went to show the out of towners the new area of Ybor that is emerging, and throw some darts at Lounge 7 at 14. Again, not many people out this evening, we even saw a popular spot that is usually open and busy in Wednesday's close their doors by 11pm. By this time they had all wanted to stop by and meet up with some other out of town guests at City Side, which was busy as usual...and then a last night stop at Green Iguana Westshore.

Thursday I bought everyone lunch from Lenny's Subs..these have to be the largest, and freshest subs around. They freshly slice your order, pile it high with meats and cheeses, and the bread is made fresh daily. The Red Hot special sauce is one of the best toppings.
The evening brought us to Malio's for dinner. We had a table reserved for us outside on the patio over looking the Hillsborough River and UT minarets. It was an awesome atmosphere. For my second time here, I was again overwhelmed by the professional service, quality of food(filets with blue cheese, I tried the Lamb Chops which was smaller than expected but very tasty, Salmon was delicious, but came out a bit more done then we would have liked-the manager came quickly to apologize profusely and provide dessert on the house if we liked, Tuna was cooked perfectly and my buddy exclaimed it was probably the best piece of Tuna he has ever had....our sides which are all a la carte included a very cheesy macaroni and cheese, onion rings piled high on the plate, spinach with garlic and asparagus)...we were all there for about three hours just enjoying the company, atmosphere, food, oh and drinks...LOTS of drinks(Dirty Martini's, Coffee with Bailey's)....after Malios(we were the last ones there), we left to see some live music downtown and some of us did not want to stop the dirty martini train, so we headed a few blocks to Fly Bar downtown. A few people were in the bar, the rooftop bar was closed. We got a nice big table outside on the patio, and watched a great Raggae/Rock group, Jafari, who often came outside to sing and interact with us. By 1am, it was time to head home, but a few of us stopped by the Green Iguana Westshore for some more late night live music and played a great interactive video game at the bar. Looks like the last of the renovations is almost complete.

Friday some of us were hurting from Thursday, and I had to take my buddy's car back to him up in Cheval. I stopped by Five Guys Burger and Fries on Kennedy Blvd, cause there is nothing better for a hangover than a HUGE greasy burger with LOTS of toppings, and a bag full of FRESH CUT potato fries! If its fresh huge burgers, with over 15 free toppings that you choose, this is the place. Friday evening we went to a Holiday Party in the Historic Neighborhood of Roser Park in St. Pete, and then checked out the new nightclub in St. Pete, PUSH. It was time this place had opened, very laid back attitude, but very upscale atmosphere. A restaurant is on the ground floor, my buddy Jason did all the landscaping for the courtyards and it looked great. The second floor was the main bar with a huge dance floor and stage for performances. An excellent "lounge/dance" style DJ was playing great tunes to a mostly 30+ crowd. There is an outside bar area on the second floor as well, but the best area was the rooftop deck and bar, overlooking all of downtown St. Pete. As we headed back home, it was yet again anther late night stop at the Green Iguana Westshore, where hard rock band "IPD" was entertaining the crowd.

Saturday was Larry's last day in town, he was heading back to LA this evening. We took the kids to the dog park at Picnic Island, it was a beautiful day, as was this whole week. One thing about Picnic Island is it's a hidden oasis on Tampa Bay. The dog park on the beach is HUGE, and not many people know about it, there are actually hills here overlooking the bay and downtown St. Pete makes for a great escape in South Tampa.
Before Larry's flight, we reserved a table for six of us on the outdoor upper balcony of CDB's south off Westshore. It was great to sit outside above Westshore Blvd, this was my forth time here, the service was good, our waiter had a bit of an attitude, almost like he just didnt want to be there. The Greek Salads were huge, a small is enough to share for at least three. The Pasta Fagoul was the worst I have ever had, the ear shaped pasta was over cooked and soggy, I hardly saw one bean in the soup. Meals came out and although this isn't the best italian food, it is good(the sauce is a bit thick and too sweet for my liking). The small Meatball Parm grinder was huge, almost a dozen homemade meatballs on large fresh italian bread.
After dropping Larry off at the airport it was either going to another Holiday Party, seeing my favorite band from the 90's, Tragic Rabbit-now called Three Green Windows-at Dave's Aqua Lounge, or just hunkering down with the Patriots/Giants game at home.....I stayed home!!

The looong weekend isn't over yet, my Aunt's 50th bday is today, tomorrow is the USF Bowl game from El Paso, and New Years Eve.

One of my buddy's with 'Jafari' lead singer at Fly Bar downtown Tampa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Mad Dogs Evening and The Junction Ice Cream

Joe, John, Darin and I met up for dinner at Mad Dogs and Englishmen on MacDill Ave in South Tampa for a last evening dinner before I head out to Colorado to spend the Holidays with the family. (Maida, John and Lauren arrived a little later)....Again, I was very pleased with the service, we were promptly seated in their outdoor courtyard around 730(had reservations), and Summer professionally waited on us with a great smile. The Hummus for starters, very fresh with Hot Pita, and for meals we all had some kind of chicken, Chicken Skewers with Sweet Potato Fries, Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes, Chicken Curry, Mad Dogs Salad with Chicken Breast and Chicken Sandwhich..all very good as ususal. Afterwards we walked over the The Junction for some Home Made Old Meeting House Ice Cream and Joffrey's Coffee, was nice to sit and chat for a bit, they have board games and cool video displays, also outdoor seating areas...The Junction kind of reminds me of a 50's style soda fountain shop that is a bit retro...we then all walked back to Darin's condo tower on Bayshore, and then I headed back home across the 2 mile Peninsula in South Tampa to Westshore.

Denver and Colorado Springs here I come...i'm really looking forward to seeing my Nephews and Niece, and my two brothers and their families. My oldest bro from NY is also flying out there, Madre got there today. Be Back Wednesday!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy One Year Anniversary "Tampa I Am"!'s been a year since I started to blog, just to keep some family and a few friends in touch, and keep track of things i've been doing in Tampa Bay area...a year later and I have corresponded with some other great bloggers(Sticks of Fire, Tampa Taxi Shots, Eating Tampa, St Petersblog, West Tampa Blog, Seminole Heights Blog, Tampa Heights Blog, and many more from TampaBlab), and Forums like City Data Tampa and Skyscraper City Tampa. I also have learned many new things about the area, and am now reaching about 3000 hits a month from people all over the world.

I decided to bring back my first post..."Why Tampa?" And as I read through, I can say that I dont have to make many changes to it. I look forward to seeing what the 2nd year of blogging will bring.

So many ask...why Tampa, why do you stay? What is it about Tampa?

Well in short, the Water, the Weather, the Progress, the Activities, the History, the People.

Water - everywhere, most of Tampa is situated on a Peninsula(called Interbay Peninsula), so there is water to the east(Hillsborough Bay) water to the West(Old Tampa Bay), and the South(Tampa Bay). The Main river through Tampa is the Hillsborough River which starts as a Spring 30 miles to the North, and runs through the city ending up in the Hillsborough Bay downtown. 20 miles to the West of Tampa is the pristine aqua blue water and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout Tampa Bay area are numerous lakes, rivers, streams, estuary's, bays, intracostal waterways to explore. Plain and simple, if you like fresh water, salt water, streams, rivers, oceans, Tampa's got it! In addition 5 of the nations number one beaches are located in the Bay area(Fort DeSoto, Pass-a-Grille, Clearwater, Caledesi Island, Honeymoon Island).

Weather - with an average high temperature of 76 degrees from October to May, how could you not love the weather. While others are huddled up for the winter to the North, we are basking in low humidity, beautiful blue skies, and pleasant temperatures for 75% of the year. This means all outdoor activities, sports, festivals can be enjoyed year round in Tampa. And in the summer months, June through September, although it can get very warm, the average high temps are about 88 degrees, there is a almost always a constant breeze due to the coastal winds which trigger mighty Thunderstorms in summer late afternoons/evenings, in time to cool it off a bit, and provide a lightning and thunderous show like clock work most evenings. Since most of us have a pool, beach, and airconditioning nearby, we can handle 3 to 4 months of warmer than usual temps for paradise the the other 9 months of the year.

History - the Bay area has been home to several Indian Tribes for thousands of years. The Spanish came in the 15 and 16oo's, but the American's did not start to evaluate Florida and the Tampa area until the mid 1800's. We built Fort Brooke in what is now downtown Tampa during the Seminole Indian Wars, and later used it for soldiers being shipped off for the Spanish-American War. Vincente Martinez Ybor purchased 40 acres of land just east of downtown to start his Cigar Factories. Within 10 years and by the late 1800's until the depression in the 1920's, Tampa was known throughout the world as the Cigar Capital of the World. Immigrants came to Tampa from Italy, Spain, and Cuba to prosper in the Cigar Capital. Henry B Plant chose Tampa to expand his railroad from the North, and that led to many tourists to flock to the warm temperatures, and an increase in Trade. Many of the established neighborhoods from the early 20th century still exist(Hyde Park, Tampa Heights, West Tampa, Seminole Heights, Ybor City), and have numerous architectural buildings, homes, and landscapes. The area has a unique Cuban-Latin American flavor to it. A few interesting tid bits about Tampa include it has one of the largest Civil War largest Confederate grave sites(Oaklawn Cemetery), Ella Fistzgerald lived in Tampa and recorded some of her biggest hits here, Ray Charles made his first recording in Tampa and Tampa is where the "The Twist" dance craze was born, Rev. Billy Graham started his practice in downtown Tampa, and peolpe like Teddy Roosevelt, Elvis Presley, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, John F Kennedy, James Brown, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and more have all left footprints of some kind here in Tampa.

Progress - from the 1950's to present, Tampa has been growing by leaps and bounds. Many from the North came here to escape the brutal winters, and the ability to attain land and homes for far less than it would cost in the North. In addition, Tampa Bay's cost of living was considerably less, and there were far fewer taxes. Most transplants came from the MidWest(Ohio, Michigan, Illinios, Indiana), with the remainder coming from the Northeast(New York, Connecticutt, New Jersey). Things have changed quite a bit over the past 10 years(the 90's to present). The growth has been abundant, and the Tampa Bay area now has close to 2 million residents, with the city of Tampa having nearly 330,000. A Financial District was created in the 60's and 70's(current downtown), a Services Sector, Westshore Business District, which is now the largest business and services sector in the state, and 5th largest in the Nation. A National Historic Landmark area, Ybor City and Hyde Park. Tampa Bay is now the 12th largest media market in the Nation. In the 20 years I have called Tampa home, I have seen more skyscrapers built downtown, a national hockey team(Tampa Bay Lightning - Stanley Cup Champions) and Forum built, a professional baseball team(Tampa Bay Devil Rays) and Dome arena established, new Football stadium built for the SuperBowl champion Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Tampa is also looking forward to hosting it's 3rd SuperBowl in 2009. Downtown continues to expand its Arts Museums, Cultural Exhibits, and Parks and trails to accommodate the growth. Just in the past two years over 2000 new residents are calling downtown home in the areas like Channelside, Harbour Island, and the Central Core of downtown, with more new condo towers and residences being constructed and planned, there will be close to 10,000 residents in downtown by 2010. The Riverwalk is well on it's way to be completed by 2009, almost 3 miles of waterfront walking, jogging, blading throughout downtown with cafe's and events along the riverfront. One of the nations largest Aquariums was established in Tampa(Florida Aquarium). Two lane roads transversed into 4 lane highways. And progress just doesn't stop. It nice to live in an area where things change, and most of the progress and changes are for the better and for the people of the city. The moat efficient and modern airport continues it's growth, with a new terminal planned to be open by 2015, Interstates have all been expanded or are currently under construction to be expanded, and finally, Mass Transit is back on the board, with the first trains, light rail and BRT to be operational by 2012.

Activities - For a small city, Tampa has it all. And its nice to have it all in a small city.
Sports - Football, Baseball, Hockey, Arena Football, College Football, Soccer, Baseball and Basketball - all National teams, nationally recognized, and state of the art arenas and fields to play on.
Theater - Tampa Bay Perforing Arts Center is then largest Center for the arts in the Southeast, along with over a dozen other venues for broadway and local productions(Mahaffey, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Gorilla Theater, MAD Theater, and many more independents).
Museums - Dali, Fine Art, Art, Childrens, Holocaust, History, Natural, Fire, Police, Science and Industry, Explorations, International.
Concerts - every major concert act always makes a stop through Tampa performing at numerous venues(Forum, Bayfront Arena, Amphitheter, Tampa Stadium, USF Sundome, Jannus Landing, The Orpheum, Tampa Theater, among the other theaters listed above)
Festivals -ahhh, the numerous festivals year round, some of the biggest in the Nation, and lots of people watching, and of course food and BEER!(Gasparilla - month long celebration, Florida State Fair, Strawberry Festival, International and Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Guavaween, numerous Art Festivals including the Gasparilla and Mainsail). Most of the smaller communities and neighborhoods have monthly festivals like Clearwater Jazz Fest, Hyde Park Music Series, St. Pete's RibFest, John's Pass Seafood Festival, St. Pete's Festival of States. ABout every weekend you can find some kind of festival or gathering throughout the Bay area.
Attractions - people come from all over the world to visit the area. It's nice to have these in my backyard - Busch Gardens theme park, Adventure Island water park, Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, St. Pete Pier, Big Cat Rescue, Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, Florida Botanical Gardens, BEACHES, Heritage Village to name a few.
Recreation - what do you want to do today? Well you can do most everything here in Tampa. Biking Trails(on and off road), Kayaking/Canoeing, Wind Surfing, Fishing, Boating, Sunbathing, Skating, Hiking, Golf. There is a park almost every few miles throughout the city for the purpose of getting out and keeping active.
Shopping - well, some people consider this an activity, and for those that like it, any name brand store can be found in Tampa, whether its exclusive(International Plaza), outdoors(Hyde Park Village, Centro Ybor, BayWalk), Entertaining(BayStreet, Westshore Plaza) or Outlet(Ellenton), its here..from Funky(Ybor City) to mondane(University Square), Flea Markets(Big Top, Oldsmar, Wagon Wheel)'s here.
Nightlife - as if the above isn't enough, its great to know that there are many entertainment options. Ybor City is Tampa's French Quarter like area with a bar, club and entertainment venue for anyone. It is now going through yet another revitalization, with GLBT establishments on the West end of Ybor City(known now as Gaybor), to the newest entertainment type choices and smaller lounge type places. Then there is Channelside, SOHO, Hyde Park, Westshore, BayStreet. Downtown St. Pete holds it's own for numerous nightlife options, Central Ave and the waterfront bars and clubs.
Dining - As far as restaurants, Tampa is known as one of the Nations busiest places to eat out, because so many of us eat out, and this is because there are so many places and options to eat in the area. Its no wonder places like Hooters, Outback, Bonefish Grille, Hops all started here in Tampa. But its more than just the chains, some of my favs are : Berns, Malio's and Charley's for steaks, Yoko's and Samarai Blue for Sushi, Cappy's and Eddie&Sams for Pizza, Royal Palace for Thai, Kojaks and Jimbo's for BBQ, Oystercatchers and Crab Shack for seafood, Bernini, Bella's and Laughing Cat for Italian, Acropolis for Greek, Red Mesa and Algusto's for Mexican/Tex Mex.

One thing about Tampa, is it's not a Big Deal. What I mean is, it's not a big deal to do any of the above. Whether it's a sports game, day at the beach, trip to a museum or park, a festival, or going out for dinner, it's not a big deal as opposed to going out in a big city. You gotta love having it all in a small city. And I love to travel to visit the bigger cities around the country(NY, Chicago, Boston, LA), so having a World Class, convenient airport with numerous non-stop, inexpensive flights to most major cities is another plus!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Meatballs and Mojitos!

I had another Meatballs and Mojitos get together at my house, this time for the Holiday. About 25 of my good friends came by for my famous meatballs and yummy mojitos. The meatball thing is actually quite funny, I decided a few years back when having get together to just buy some frozen meatballs in the grocer and some Hunt's canned Garlic and Herb Sauce, put them in a pot for a bout 45 minutes to heat through, and I never received more raves over them...I missed them once, and everyone revolted "where are the meatballs??"..well, I'll never forget them again...the mojitos were great as usual...Kris brought over stuff to make French martini's, which were another big hit, almost more so than the mojitos(bastard)...
Afterwards, we left to head out to a Christmas Party in Hyde Park on S. Boulevard. This street from south of Swann Ave to Bayshore Blvd is all lit up, almost each historic house house has decorations, and the huge oaks lining the street are also all lit up. The party was huge, and just behind the house was another large Christmas party, across the alley to the house on Edison, another old historic house. The only thing missing was a chill in the was muggy and in the 60's this evening!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Am Legend - Sneak Peak

I was invited to join a sneak peak at the new Will Smith movie "I Am Legend" that is opening this Friday in IMAX. It was a GREAT experience, and an excellent movie, some very tense moments, and jump in your seat action, great special effects of NYC. FUN!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tampa Guy goes to Orlando for the Weekend!

I headed up to Orlando Saturday morning with my buddy John, we had tickets for Universals Islands of Adventure and Cypress Gardens that we needed to use before the end of the year. It was a great weekend weather wise, temps around 80, blue skies. Islands of Adventure was great, but had a limited amount of rides/attractions I was interested in(Hulk Coaster, Dueling Dragons Coaster, a couple of water rides, and Spider Man). But the tix were free, so we made the most of it, and was able to finish the park within a bout 4 hours, and had an ok lunch at the Burger Digs. Leaving the park, we decided to see a movie at City Walk, great movie theaters connected to the parks, the movie "HitMan" was good, kept the adrenaline running.
Saturday evning we met up with an old college buddy of mine, who now owns 4 of some of the nicest and most happening restaurant/lounges in downtown Orlando. He was having a small party at his condo, we hung out overlooking all of downtown Orlando, it was a great evening.
Sunday, we got to Cypress Gardens, I was surprised at how much there is actually here to do, 4 small scale roller coasters, one was very decent, and a variety of lots of different types of other rides. The water ski show was ok, but they have some animal exhibits, and of course all the Gardens. There is a decent buffet where we had an early dinner there before heading back to Tampa.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Tampa's BEST sushi(YOKO'S) - Tampa's BEST Gelato(LA CASA DOLCE). Enuff Said!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ybor Eats and Ybor Comedy

John got free tickets to see Al Romas at the Improv Comedy Club in Ybor City, so we made an Ybor City night of it last evening. We grabbed a bite at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, it was a cool evening, but the outdoor patio looked inviting, there were several empty tables at 7pm. The food was very good as usual, I handled the Greek Salad with Chicken, came in an oversized bowl, with half a chicken breast sliced on top...John devoured the Mojo Roast Pork, two very thick pieces of well marinated Pork, with some cuban sides. The dressings and marinade were made with some of their on-site brewed beer, as are nearly every dish on the menu. We finished just in time to head over to the Improv, it was a slow night, although most of the tables were filled by the time the headliner act came on.
I overheard a few new clubs were opening in Ybor soon, The Honey Pot, where the old Rubb/Twilight/Code was is supposed to be a new LA style club,with beautiful women dancing throughout the venue, LA style choreographed dancing, VIP section on the second level. The other venue is across the street, called Crossover Sport Bar and The Club, where the old Club Hedo was, and supposed to be a gay sports bar with a drag show club(???).

Driving back to South Tampa, it was great to see all the Christmas Decorations lit up in the beautiful mansions along Bayshore Blvd, we took a drive down South Boulevard from Swann Ave to Bayshore, as this is one of my favorite decorasted Christmas streets, each huge oak tree lining the street has lights, and nearly every house had a Christmas display..a MUST.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Channelside Eats and a Hockey Game

After touring the Tampa Riverwalk a few weeks back, the City of Tampa handed out free Lightning tickets for last nights game against the Ottawa Senators. We parked at Channelside garage(which is $10 for game nights unless you have your parking ticket validated by one of the establishments in Channelside, then it's .50 cents per hour). The group wanted to meet up at Bennigan's - not my choice! We waited about 5 minutes for a table for six, the place was VERY busy. Typical Bennigan's, but the views were incredible, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the waterfront, Harbour Island and the Port of Tampa. Besides the company, that was the best part of this Bennigan's experience. The chicken dishes were all rather dry and bland, my French Dip was very small, lacked any flavor but salt, the bowl the aus juice came in had mustard on it, the fries were all cold. Service was fine...but food quality was at it's worst. This is the second time I have been here(not on my decision), and will be the last. There are FAR better establishments in Channelside to grab some eats(Stumps, Splitsville, Thai Tani to name a few) for a quick bite before the game.

We walked over the the Forum, (About a 10 minute walk) was a nice chilly evening, temps in the lower 50's, hockey weather for Florida. Lightning won 4-3, after dominating the game 2-0 during the first two periods.

Monday, December 3, 2007

History in TAMPA!

Got out of my home office for lunch to partake in the Ground Breaking ceremony for the new Tampa Bay History Center today. The waterfront park downtown was hopping, close to one thousand showed up to view the artists renderings of the building, sign one of the beams to be used, get a free t-shirt, and enjoy some free lunch, compliments of the Columbia restaurant(chicken and rice, and cuban sandwich's). There was a high school band and chorus providing entertainment, and all the Tampa and Hillsborough politicians and dignitaries on hand. Weather couldn't be better, breezy, sunny skies, around 80 degrees. It's expected to be complete by this time next year. Another great perk for downtown and Tampa Bay residents and visitors.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tampa Steak and a Christmas Stroll: Malio's Prime/Plant Museum Christmas Stroll

Took madre out for her birthday with the Aunt and Uncle Saturday evening to Malio's Prime restaurant located in downtown Tampa's "beer can building" or 400 North Tower. We wanted an early eat to be able to walk over to the Plant Museum and check out the annual Christmas Stroll. Reservations were set for 5pm, parked with ease under the remnants of Kiley Park, just off Ashley Drive downtown, they also have valet. There were only a few occupied tables at this time, they sat us in a HUGE oval booth, perfect for the four of us(very large booths and tables throughout the restaurant, intimate tables for two along the upper tier with window views of the Hillsborough River and University of Tampa minarets..reminded me of a NYC type of place, where the famous and infamous would dine....there is also a large outdoor patio with excellent views of the river, and large bar area). Larry came promptly and greeted us, told us about the place, specials for the day and recommended some wines. Very professional. We started with madre and I splitting the Chop Salad..delicious flavor and presentation, came in a cylinder form, chopped veges with salami and cheese, but not enough for two. Aunt and Uncle split the Beefsteak Tomato and Onion salad, tangy dressing, a whole huge tomato sliced thick, on a bed of field greens, plenty to split. The orders came out very timely, enough time to chat, and savor the salads, and very fresh, steaming hot bread brought to each table. Finally to the steaks, which this place is to be known for...the 20 oz bone in NY Strip covered in Blue cheese was my choice, perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor. Uncle chowed down on one of the BEST 16 oz eating steak flavored butter..amazing, he exclaimed he found a new steak place(Ruth Chris' was his favorite)..Aunt and Madre both got the 8ox filet, perfectly cooked as well. Sides are all a la carte, huge portion of fresh Asparagus with Hollndaise sauce on the side, Large tower of Onion Rings, lightly battered, crispy and thin, great flavor, a collosal baked potato, and the Macaroni and Cheese, which came in a bowl and plenty for four people. Mr. Ivarone, one of the owners, came by to chat with us, Malio's is just one of a few great places owned by his family. The GM also came by to chat with us as well. Mr. Ivarone insisted that desert be on the house, we split the chocolate decadence, ooozing with chocolate of all kinds. We ate everything, as it was too tasty to leave ANYTHING behind or take home with us. With cocktails, salads, meals and coffee's it came to about $60 per person...not bad considering the professionalism, service, ambiance, and most of all the FOOD! Next time i'm going to grab a table outside if the weather cooperates.

We walked over to the University of Tampa's Plant Museum after dinner, a nice stroll across the Hillsborough River, beautiful views the minarets were all lit up, and the skyscrapers from downtown lit up nicely in the river. They were having their 26th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, the museum and all the rooms are decorated for the holidays, with vintage holiday decorations(funny seeing things that I remembered as a kid growing up at home in NY), there were Christmas carolers, they gave out free cookies and hot apple cider. It was my first time in the museum, if you ever wanted to see stuff about the history of the area, this is yet another great place. Tampa really has a very rich and unique history for a Florida city, many are not aware of, dating back to the mid 1800's. Lots of old pictures, maps, videos detailing the culture and history, and some insteresting rooms featuring items from that era. One area that moved me was reading the actual letters from soldiers stationed at the Tampa during the Spanish American War, and artifacts on how Tampa was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for the very wealthy in the winters. A MUST if you want to know more about the history and culture of this area.

After leaving the family, I had some friends over the house, we hung out on the patio for a bit, the weather was perfect, and then we walked over to the Green Iguana Westshore for some live music and socializing on the outdoor tiki deck.