Self-proclaimed gourmands, my husband and I thought we had to give up fine dining after we had children.
Mostly because of the sticker-shock of daycare times two, but also because of the unpredictability that comes with toddlers and their tantrums.
One of our more memorable dining adventures had one parent eating alone at the table while the other tried in vain to tire out the little ones with jogs around the strip mall.
Ordering takeout works sometimes, but the food never looks or tastes quite as good once we get it home.
Thank goodness for Reservations Gourmet-To-Go, the Seminole Heights eatery whose owners not only prepare the fancy meals for you but tell you how to reheat them in your stove.
Genius - and delicious, too.
Husband and wife Anthony and Elke Catania opened Reservations two years ago in a storefront along Nebraska Avenue that once housed Ybor Pizza.
They've worked this concept before, but this time the couple embarked on a new business just as the bottom was falling out of the economy.
No matter, Elke says. It's working.
And no wonder, considering the convenience. Just call in your order from the office, and pick it up on your way home.
For our first visit, we tried the house special, a blackened red snapper that was moist and flaky thanks to the reheating instructions, which worked for pretty much everything: 400 degrees for 12 minutes.
Anthony, an executive chef who uses many of his Italian family's tried-and-true recipes, seasoned the grilled fish with cayenne pepper, thyme, fresh lemon and butter. It was plenty spicy - and just what the doctor ordered to kick the respiratory bug I had.
We also enjoyed the meatloaf, which came close to Mom's (we have to say that, of course).
Both dinners came with sides. We liked the scalloped potatoes, thinly sliced spuds layered like lasagna with bread crumbs and Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.
The fresh green salad was also a pleaser with shaved carrots, chopped tomatoes, capers, green onions, artichoke hearts and a tasty house vinaigrette.
The chunky tomato basil soup had the consistency of gazpacho and packed a wallop of basil flavor.
For dessert: a gigantic slab of homemade triple-layer Devil's Food Cake with creamy chocolate icing. This was more than enough to share.
It wasn't long before we were dialing up Reservations again.
We gobbled up a meatball sub, topped with Bolognese sauce and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses stuffed inside crusty Italian bread from the St. Petersburg bakery of Panetteria Clemente Corp.
And we fell in love with the Tampa Cheese Steak, filet mignon sautéed with onions and mushrooms served on a 12-inch hoagie with horseradish mayo dressing, blue cheese sauce and romaine lettuce.
Both sandwiches, including the bread, stood up well to a second-night of heating.
Specials change weekly, so we took the opportunity to try the grilled salmon accompanied by a cold cucumber dill sauce. Even after the reheat, the fish remained succulent.
This time around, we sampled two desserts. The Triple Layer Carrot Cake had juicy raisins and just the right sweetness. The velvety New York cheesecake received rave reviews from a New York City native, no less.
Tabs for both visits were between $40 and $60, including tips. Service was helpful, friendly and competent.
Best of all, mom and dad got to enjoy a chef-inspired meal without having to take turns eating it at the table.
Bottom line: Convenient fine dining that lets you bring the gourmet meal home.
Where: 4703 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: No; dine-in seating for lunch only
Children's menu: Can accommodate
Wheelchair access: Yes
Price: Sandwiches start at $6.95, dinners range from $10.95 to $16.95
Call: (813) 231-6800