Place:Palace Pizza 5235 US Highway 98 S, Lakeland, FL

Dish: Gnocchi Sorrentino

So this weekend I had a craving for some very unhealthy, gooey, cheesy, saucy Italian food and I found nothing less than my desires at Palace Pizza. This small, minimally decorated restaurant with all the Italian classics is located off to the side in a shopping center in Lakeland. The location and even the inside of the restaurant were nothing to write home about with fake trees and twinkle lights lining the black banisters but the food was mouth watering. As I said for this meal I had no intention of staying healthy and started out with their complementary bread and oil. This was no ordinary bread though, instead of giving you bread sticks they give you freshly made pizza dough used to make their hand tossed creations. The dipping sauce was a mix of extra virgin olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Then I ordered a nice glass of Sangria that had the perfect mix of fruit and alcohol with a good fizz to it. For the main meal it was hard to decide between the different options like traditional lasagna, eggplant parmesan, or classic pizza but I went with the Gnocchi Sorrentino. Our waiter who was actually Italian complemented me on my pronunciation of gnocchi. If you were wondering yourself how to say it, this is the best way to explain it: yno-key. A heaping plate of potato dumpling pasta came out covered in homemade marinara sauce topped with bubbling mozzarella cheese. I took the first bite and the sauce and melted cheese filled my mouth satisfying every craving I came to the restaurant with. The gnocchi was slightly over cooked which granted is easy to do, but slightly disappointing. As I continued through the dish though, I realized only a few of the dumpling were over done and the rest were of the melt-in-your-mouth quality. Of course like any good Italian restaurant they served me a serving for two leaving me or I should say DH some tasty leftovers. As if the bread, wine, and pasta wasn’t enough DH and I split a cannoli. As you can see I don’t have a picture of this because as soon as it came out we both dug our spoons in. The shell was flaky and rich while the filling was creamy, sweet, and filled with chocolate chips. Then the whole desert was drizzled with chocolate sauce and placed on a plate of cocoa powder. I left very full feeling slightly guilty for my indulgence but trust me when I say it was worth it! I give this place 3 out of 5 because the location definitely lacked in atmosphere and decor and the food was definitely not gourmet. However the food was very traditional, homemade and hit the spot.

(Source: palacepizza.net)

  
Place: Acropolis Greek Taverna 1833 E 7th Ave Tampa, Fl 33605
Dish: Shrimp Cyprus
This noisy and rambunctious restaurant is located in an equally animated area of Ybor  City. The group of friends I was with walked into the restaurant to the tune of Greek folk music, watching our steps back to our table because the floor was covered by napkins. Our waiter came over quickly and asked us loudly over the music what we would like to drink.  On her return she proceeded to spill my water across the table and partially on my lap. At any other restaurant there would have been gasps, and repeated apologies, instead she threw napkins up in the air and pronounced proudly “OPA!” This pretty much set the tone for the night; it was laid back, fun and loud!
We ordered an appetizer of stuffed fried mushrooms and as we waited for these tasty treats too come to our table a belly dancer emerged. I of course teased DH as his eyes were fixed on the dancers hips as she shook the scarf wrapped around them. After giving him a hard time our appetizer arrived and to our surprise and delight the mushrooms were huge, stuffed with cream cheese. There was enough for each of us to have one and it was plenty. They were quickly shoveled down as we waited for our main entrees.
For my main entrée and in attempt to eat something healthy, I ordered the Shrimp Cyprus. Two skewers of grilled spicy shrimp in between roasted red peppers and mushrooms came out along with a side of orzo and sautéed vegetables. The shrimp had a fantastic plump texture and spice that was just right, not over powering. The roasted vegetables tasted great when combined with the orzo topped off with feta cheese. The combination was savory and spicy and eating healthy didn’t feel like a punishment. My favorite part of the entrée was actually the orzo. I loved that it filled me up but most importantly included cheese and seasonings making it a worthy side of the skewers.
Overall I give this place a 4 out of 5 because although the food was truly delicious and filling; the restaurant was a little too loud at times and it was difficult to carry on conversations.

Place: Acropolis Greek Taverna 1833 E 7th Ave Tampa, Fl 33605

Dish: Shrimp Cyprus

This noisy and rambunctious restaurant is located in an equally animated area of Ybor City. The group of friends I was with walked into the restaurant to the tune of Greek folk music, watching our steps back to our table because the floor was covered by napkins. Our waiter came over quickly and asked us loudly over the music what we would like to drink.  On her return she proceeded to spill my water across the table and partially on my lap. At any other restaurant there would have been gasps, and repeated apologies, instead she threw napkins up in the air and pronounced proudly “OPA!” This pretty much set the tone for the night; it was laid back, fun and loud!

We ordered an appetizer of stuffed fried mushrooms and as we waited for these tasty treats too come to our table a belly dancer emerged. I of course teased DH as his eyes were fixed on the dancers hips as she shook the scarf wrapped around them. After giving him a hard time our appetizer arrived and to our surprise and delight the mushrooms were huge, stuffed with cream cheese. There was enough for each of us to have one and it was plenty. They were quickly shoveled down as we waited for our main entrees.

For my main entrée and in attempt to eat something healthy, I ordered the Shrimp Cyprus. Two skewers of grilled spicy shrimp in between roasted red peppers and mushrooms came out along with a side of orzo and sautéed vegetables. The shrimp had a fantastic plump texture and spice that was just right, not over powering. The roasted vegetables tasted great when combined with the orzo topped off with feta cheese. The combination was savory and spicy and eating healthy didn’t feel like a punishment. My favorite part of the entrée was actually the orzo. I loved that it filled me up but most importantly included cheese and seasonings making it a worthy side of the skewers.

Overall I give this place a 4 out of 5 because although the food was truly delicious and filling; the restaurant was a little too loud at times and it was difficult to carry on conversations.

Place: WaiTiki

26 Wall St
Orlando, FL 32801
Neighborhood: Downtown

Appetizer: Hush Puppies

Dish: Tiki Tacos

DH and I decided to wonder to Downtown Orlando to find a tasty restaurant offering something different than salads and sandwiches for lunch on Saturday. After walking around for a little we came to WaiTiki right across from the History Center. Island music “don’t worry be happy” wondered out of the wooden walls and welcomed us in. We sat outside apparently on Drunk St. or at least that’s what the sign said, and took a look at the Island inspired menu. Items such as Oahu wings, and the Humunga Kawabunga burger, were tempting options but I wanted to stay healthy (for the most part) and chose a tasty appetizer of hush puppies and the Tiki Tacos for the main meal.

The hush puppies were my splurge for the day and came out golden brown, fried, and dipped in a sweet and spicy glaze that created the perfect combination with the warm sweet bread and a tangy kick. 4 over-sized hush puppies came out and were quickly gobbled down.

Moving onto the main dish, I chose the Tiki Tacos with blackened Mahi Mahi. The plate came out with a wonderful presentation of colors. From the ripe red tomatoes to the black beans I couldn’t wait to dig in. The tacos were more hands on with all the toppings on the side which is a perfect way to watch the amount of that tasty sauce they always top off the tacos with. I placed some of the ripe tomatoes along with lettuce and cilantro in the tortilla, dipped it in the spicy mayonnaise and bit in. Flavors of fresh fish, spices and lime filled my taste buds urging me to gulp down the entire meal. Instead I savored the taste and moved to the black beans and rice served as the perfect side with a hint of lime, onions, and carrots all mixed together. By the end of the meal I was nice and full and ready to walk around the lake. I give this place a 3 out of 5 because the menu was slightly limited on healthy choices, and the presentation did include little plastic cups for the side of sauce, but the meal was very filling and tasty.

Place:Bamboozle Cafe, 516 N. Tampa, FL 33602
Dish: Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken
This pleasant and healthy cafe is located in downtown Tampa and while parking may be difficult to find this fresh restaurant decked out with local art is worth it. 
I ordered the Noodle Salad which after my beloved Rice Paper restaurant in Orlando closed down, hit the noodle craving spot. This dish starts with a generous portion of rice vermicelli noodles with cucumbers, been sprouts, shredded carrots, lettuce, piled on top. Then you get to choice your meat and I chose chicken, which was grilled to perfection with a hint of lime and coconut. Once you have the main ingredients to make this dish it’s topped off with fried shallots, peanuts, and fish sauce. I of course added some thai hot sauce to give it some hop.
The reason I love this meal so much is that it is full of healthy fresh ingredients when combined taste so good going down. I also like the mix of textures and temperatures with the vegetables and noodles as well as the hot meat of choice.
I give this place a 4 out of 5 only because I could have used a little more atmosphere to the place but the food was amazing!

Place:Bamboozle Cafe, 516 N. Tampa, FL 33602

Dish: Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken

This pleasant and healthy cafe is located in downtown Tampa and while parking may be difficult to find this fresh restaurant decked out with local art is worth it. 

I ordered the Noodle Salad which after my beloved Rice Paper restaurant in Orlando closed down, hit the noodle craving spot. This dish starts with a generous portion of rice vermicelli noodles with cucumbers, been sprouts, shredded carrots, lettuce, piled on top. Then you get to choice your meat and I chose chicken, which was grilled to perfection with a hint of lime and coconut. Once you have the main ingredients to make this dish it’s topped off with fried shallots, peanuts, and fish sauce. I of course added some thai hot sauce to give it some hop.

The reason I love this meal so much is that it is full of healthy fresh ingredients when combined taste so good going down. I also like the mix of textures and temperatures with the vegetables and noodles as well as the hot meat of choice.

I give this place a 4 out of 5 only because I could have used a little more atmosphere to the place but the food was amazing!