Best Italian Tapas in the Bay
Get ready for Best Italian Tapas in the Bay! Tapas is usually associated with Spanish cuisine. Translated it means a small plate of food. Annata is “vintage” in Italian, and they offer up their version in delectable and novel dishes on beautiful Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete. Started by the son of the owner of the iconic Mazzaro’s Italian Market, the attractive small wine and food bar has been a popular stop for wine, quick bites, or a full meal for almost a decade.
Diners are advised that with the tapas theme, plates may come out in any order. According to restaurant’s manager, Pat Sheppard, this makes it a lot easier on the wait staff than the traditional manner of presenting everyone’s appetizers, salads, and entrées at the same time. Some folks are bothered by this, but for me it’s just fine. Pat told me on a recent visit that most of the plates are in fact meant to be shared.
Salads are sizeable. There are larger plates, called “Mains,” that offer more generous portions but are also quite shareable. My personal favorite is the baby greens and fennel. It has baby kale, arugula, fennel, pear, togarashi almonds, radish, and limoncello vinaigrette. However, the picturesque burrata tower is a close second.
Recently Annata’s added a main dish named, “Roast Beast.” It is a ginormous 3-4-pound beef roast or shank that is slowly cooked over several days and meant to be eaten by 4-8 people. It must be ordered at least 3 days in advance and is the only way to get a reservation. I have not had a chance to try it yet.
My other Annata favorites are the charcuterie, which is combination of 3,5,7, 12 or 16 pieces of wonderful fresh meats and cheeses. It comes adorned with bread, crackers, honey, grainy mustard, gherkins, apricots, herbed Marconi almonds, sweet jam, and olives. I think it’s the best board in town. They also have flatbreads, like fig and pig, and outstanding pasta dishes like short rib Bolognese and Oxtail tortellini. Or try Pat’s favorite, the vegetarian Sacchetti, containing pear and robiola filled pasta, truffle cream, grana, and seasonal mushrooms.
About half of the extensive wine list, which is both domestic and international, is offered by glass as well as the bottle. Although the pour is smaller, 5 ounces, than the traditional glass, the prices are less and allows more leisurely and causal tasting.
There is both inside and outside seating on Beach Drive. But with no reservations, be prepared to wait, or sit at the bar, during prime hours. If the weather is cooperating, choose outside and gaze at Tampa Bay, boats in the Vinoy Yacht Basin, and people strolling by. Relax, visit, sip, eat, and enjoy this most special gem in the heart of downtown. So head out to Annata’s soon and see why we think they have the best Italian Tapas in the Bay!
300 Beach Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Sunday to Thursday • 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday • 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.