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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

Italian ancestry plays out in new restaurant

BY JOYCE MCKENZIE
Special Correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: July 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

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Great food, great family atmosphere and great owners.

That is Jack Townsend’s take on Legacies Cucina Italiana, a restaurant he’s been to on more than one occasion since its May 28 opening at 5001 E. Fowler Ave.

“It’s an excellent Italian restaurant,” said Townsend, whose law office in Temple Terrace is not far from the eatery.

Temple Terrace residents Joe Caravella and Gianna Tagliarini Caravella are partners in the new business as well as in life.

The married couple, whose Italian and Sicilian ancestry is etched in their souls, liken their manner of operating the restaurant to the warm and welcoming spirit in which they greet and interact with their closely knit family members and friends.

“We are a mom-and-pop Italian kitchen, and this is where our family eats,” said Joe, noting that in their culture mealtime is as much about socializing as it is about eating.

“And like at our home, our doors are always open, and to our guests we say ‘Benvenuti,’ which means welcome all,” he added.

The cuisine at the eatery is primarily prepared by Gianna and is much like the fare she’s fixed over the years for her husband and children.

Gianna’s Olive Tapanata, a longtime family favorite blend of chopped black olives and extra-virgin olive oil, is served in combination with domestic and imported meats and cheeses as one of the restaurant’s many appetizers. Another starter the couple likes to tout is the deviled crab, prepared by a gentleman in Tampa.

A selection of salads — including the Alessandria & Stefano, with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and black pepper drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and Modena balsamic vinegar — as well as several choices of flatbreads, with or without meat, are also featured on the menu.

The Meatballs Mascotte entrée, also made on the premises by Gianna, consists of beef and pork and is served on pasta with red sauce.

Among her other creations are Tortellini di Tagliarini, a cheese tortellini dish served with either a cream or pesto sauce and fresh minced garlic; and Chicken Parma-Gianna, a boneless breast of chicken cutlet breaded, sautéed and baked with tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

For dessert, guests may select from an assortment of gelato flavors made by an artisan from the Gelateria del Duomo at International Plaza in Tampa; cannoli; and lemon ricotta cookies, also Gianna’s creation.

Beer and wine as well as a few kids’ favorite eats are also available at Legacies, whose name represents the owners’ reverence for Tampa pacesetters who have left their mark in the community. A display of their photos line the restaurant’s walls.

Temple Terrace City Councilman Eddie Vance recently dined there with his wife, MaryAnn, and their daughter, Sydnee. Vance said they thoroughly enjoyed the small cafe’s ambiance.

“The food was delicious and a great value,” Vance said. “MaryAnn had the house salad and meatballs, and per her, they are to die for.”

Jamie Klingman, board chairman of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, had lunch at Legacies a few days ago with a friend.

They opted to share the Italian Sausage Pinwheel luncheon special of the day. It consisted of a half-pound of sausage served on a bed of pasta with red sauce and sautéed onions and bell peppers.

“It was absolutely fantastic, and even though we split it, we still had leftovers,” said Klingman, who, in addition, described the service as prompt but not overbearing.

Business Ink Printing owner David Long also had a recent opportunity to try out to new eatery.

“The new Legacies restaurant is a fresh, homemade alternative to the ubiquitous fast-food fare,” he said. “Vases of fresh basil line the counter and they break off leaves to season the meals. You cannot get any fresher than that.”

Legacies’ hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Sundays may be reserved for private parties.

Visit www.legaciescucinaitaliana.com or call (813) 980-3500 for information.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at joycecmckenzie@gmail.com.

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