This year has introduced several new and exciting restaurants to the Tampa Bay restaurant scene. One of the most highly anticipated has been Howard’s new high-end Italian restaurant, Ava. It’s in the lower level of the new Post SoHo Square apartments across from its sister restaurant, 717 South.
I tried to make reservations last Friday, but they were booked all through the weekend! We ended up heading there Monday night for dinner with Grandma Anne. We stopped by her home beforehand to see her beautiful Christmas decorations!
Ava’s design has a mix of wood, tile, and industrial metal throughout – I love all the textures. The one downside to all the hard surfaces was the noise level – immediately upon entering, we realized it would be a difficult place to hold a conversation. Maybe they can add some acoustic panels to their large open ceilings.
Our waitress explained that the majority of the menu was comprised of smaller plates like tapas, with the “secondi” section comprising of the larger entrees. While we browsed the menu, we enjoyed our drinks – my 1919 Mule was served in the traditional copper cup.
We ordered the Salumi to share – a Chef’s selection of house-cured meats with grilled bread, pickled vegetables, and mostarda. The fancy charcuterie platter was served with a side of potted pork topped in duck fat (a bit too fatty for me…but I loved the chicken liver topped crisp bread and the prosciutto).
For dinner, Grandma had the Casarecce al Pomodoro with tomato sugo, olive oil, and basil. I had the Bucatini alla Vaccinara with oxtail, pine nuts, and currants. And Lance had the La Bestia Pizza with spicy sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, arugula, and ricotta.
We loved both the freshly made pasta dishes – although Grandma wasn’t as impressed with the tomato sauce on hers. The Pizza was delicious and the ingredients vibrant, but I couldn’t even tell that there was any sausage on it. It had a soft, doughy crust, so it had to be eaten with a knife and fork. The flavor was delicious, but I prefer a crispy crust.
We all agreed that my Bucatini dish was the winner for the night. I was expecting a small amount of oxtail, but there was almost more meat than pasta! The pine nuts and currants really elevated the dish. I’d have trouble ordering anything else if I went back because it was so incredible.
Despite being pretty full, we still splurged and split tiramisu for dessert. The portion would normally be enough for just one, but we didn’t want to hurt ourselves after the large meal. It was a perfect end to an enjoyable dinner.
If you plan to check Ava out, make sure you make reservations well in advance since it’s hugely popular right now! It’s definitely worth the trip.