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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

  1. Restaurant review: Noble Crust's second location is a boon to booming Wesley Chapel

    Food & Dining


    Wesley Chapel is said to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country, due to the perfect cocktail of available and affordable land, broad but upwardly mobile demographics and easy access to other parts of Tampa Bay. And while malls and brick-and-mortar retail centers have taken a big hit in the past couple years, largely failing to stem the tide of online shopping, the Shops at Wiregrass is booming....

    A Bourbon Pecan Pie with butter-pecan ice cream at Noble Crust in Wesley Chapel.
  2. Vinoy reinvents Fred's Cellar for one night Thursday as a fundraiser for Puerto Rico

    Food & Dining

    The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort's Fred's Cellar has been underutilized for some time, starting as a private club for members and more recently re-envisioned as a speakeasy. But here's something — for one night only — that seems to be a glorious repurposing of the grand space.

    Thursday it becomes a Puerto Rico Pop Up Restaurant benefitting those affected by the recent hurricanes. The evening will feature a plated menu featuring traditional Puerto Rican cuisine such as empanadas, pastelon casserole, carne frita and coquito flan, all washed down with craft pina coladas featuring local favorite Don Q rum....

    The pink tower of the historic Mediterranean Revival-style Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES
  3. Chef behind Ricky P's is taking over the kitchen at Tampa's Roux

    Food & Dining

    Rick Parsons has been moving around St. Petersburg for some time.

    First he was brick-and-mortar free, testing out the local culinary waters with a booth at the Saturday Morning Market for his Cajun-Creole stylings. Then he put down roots in the In Your Belly Deli space, opening the eponymously named Ricky P's. What was mostly a po' boy joint, it was swiftly joined by a second humble location inside Bob Lee's Tire & Mobil Co. further down Fourth Street N. Then he took on the large and ambitious space that had formerly housed Savannah's Café in the EDGE District. He closed that down after 4 and a half years when rent skyrocketed and relocated last year to Bayview Plaza, renaming the project Ricky P's Creole Kitchen....

    Rick Parsons prepares New Orleans-style po boy sandwiches at his business in 2009. SCOTT KEELER   |  Times
  4. From Brews by the Bay to the Slider Showdown, this week is all about food fights

    Food & Dining




    Dive into the Brews by the Bay beer and food festival, a benefit for the Florida Aquarium's education, animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. Enjoy the aquarium's exhibits as you nibble dishes from restaurants like Ciccio Water and Bavaro's Pizza, sip coffee from Buddy Brew and try treats from Nothing Bundt Cakes and beers from local and regional craft breweries. There is also live entertainment. 8 to 11 p.m. Friday. $50 advance, $60 day of; $45 members. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000....

    Mini burgers and and beer shots on a wooden serving board isolated on white. Party food.
  5. Restaurant review: Bob Heilman's Beachcomber on Clearwater Beach is an oldie and, yes, still a goodie

    Food & Dining


    The packet's front is stamped: "LIBRARY MATERIALS MAY NOT BE CHECKED OUT OVERNIGHT." It is chubby, gapping with yellowed St. Petersburg Times clippings date-stamped, the restaurant name underlined in red grease pencil. Bob Heilman's Beachcomber had a whole lot of clippings in 1959, the year a fire gutted the restaurant on Mandalay Avenue and they rebuilt, bigger and better, Clearwater Mayor Alex D. Finch presiding over the ribbon cutting. There was a safe crack and a burglary, both in 1963. And then there were the accolades and reviews....

    A dome of baked Alaska is capped with bruleed meringue and accompanied by hot fudge.
  6. Alessi Bakery rolls back prices to 1912 this week

    Food & Dining

    This weekend, Tampa's historic Alessi Bakery throws its own birthday party, and it will require a lot of candles.

    Alessi has been operating almost continuously since 1912, when Nicolo Alessi, originally from Italy, opened a bakery on Cherry Street and delivered Italian and Cuban bread by horse and wagon. It is as much a part of the fabric of Tampa as Gasparilla or Cuban sandwiches or scachatta (a Sicily-by-way-of-Tampa culinary oddity, cold, pizza-ish bread squares). Come to think of it, four generations of Alessis have sold a whole mess of Cubans and scachatta every Gasparilla....

    Alessi’s flagship and only retail outlet is a deli and bakery at 2909 W Cypress St. The bakery is celebrating its birthday Saturday and Sunday.
  7. After delays, Bulla Gastrobar open in South Tampa

    Food & Dining


    Tampa Bay Brewing Co., one of the region's oldest independently owned and operated craft breweries, will host a daylong fundraising event and concert to benefit the Florida Keys in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The brewery seeks to raise $25,000 through on-site sales, a silent auction and a three-hour ticketed concert on Saturday. Proceeds will go to the Community Foundation for the Florida Keys....

    Bulla Gastrobar, a Florida-based restaurant by Centurion Restaurant Group, joined the mix of bars and eateries in the South Howard corridor. Known for its fun, communal atmosphere, imaginative cocktail program and contemporary takes on shareable Spanish cuisine, Bulla opened last Thursday at 930 S. Howard Avenue in Tampa at the Morrison.
  8. Tampa's the Hall on Franklin has a little something for everyone

    Food & Dining


    In the way it took many of us a while to understand that a contemporary food truck was capable of driving metaphorical circles around the old-school "roach coach," there's a learning curve with the food halls that have proliferated in American urban centers. They are not, for instance, like mall food courts or a collection of flea market vendors. And yet most of them are not precisely sit-down restaurants either....

    Oysters with mignonette and cocktail sauces, from the Heights Fish Camp at the Hall on Franklin.
  9. This Florida family is making apple jelly from only fruit traced directly to Johnny Appleseed


    Paul Bunyan, not real.

    John Henry, possibly real.

    Johnny Appleseed, totally real.

    This American legend, born John Chapman, was a missionary for the New Church and a nurseryman who introduced apple trees to big swaths of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Ontario and what is now West Virginia. He was born in 1774 and died in 1845, and somewhere between 1837 and 1845 he planted an apple tree on the property of the Algeo family in Nova, Ohio....

    According to Jeffrey Meyer, the Johnny Appleseed Authentic variety is more tart and acidic, like an Albemarle Pippin or Granny Smith.
  10. Tampa Bay's best coffees and deals for National Coffee Day

    Food & Dining

    Let's get caffeinated.

    Friday is National Coffee Day and loads of the usual suspects offer special deals (Dunkin' Donuts, the industry goliath, selling more than 1.9 billion cups of hot and iced coffee globally every year, is offering a sweet deal: BOGO on a medium or larger hot coffee). But it's a good moment to consider all the great coffee we have in the Tampa Bay area these days, some stalwarts like Kahwa and Buddy Brew (also doing a BOGO on cold brew), but with many newcomers. Oh, and fun fact: Americans now buy more cold coffee drinks than hot....

    Ty Beddington demonstrates the pourover method at Buddy Brew in Tampa. [Times 2012]
  11. Three ways to get your beer on this weekend: Halfway There Beer Festival, Oktoberfest

    Food & Dining


    Could it be that Irma made folks thirsty? With October(fest) approaching, there are a bunch of ways to heft a pint or two in celebration of the season.


    On Saturday, Tampa Bay Beer Week presents the Halfway There Beer Festival at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. This event brings together breweries, brewers (both professional and home brewers) and enthusiasts. It seeks to spotlight some of the best craft breweries, national and international, with a focus on beer made right here in the Tampa Bay area. More than 50 breweries and homebrew clubs will be pouring both one-offs and old favorites. Noon. 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $50-$75.

    More than 500 craft beer lovers attended the Halfway There Rare Beer Festival on Sept. 7, 2013 at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.
  12. Florida brewers have made an Irma IPA to help hurricane victims

    Bars & Spirits

    Craft beer drinkers, prepare for Irma IPA.

    What started with spaghetti models has ended with 15 barrels of Irma-themed beer, produced as part of a statewide collaboration in St. Petersburg this month. Brewers expect sales of the beer to earn tens of thousands of dollars in aid to Hurricane Irma storm victims in Florida.

    It may be one of the first times both brewers and vendors have pulled together to brew for charity....

    Green Bench, 7venth Sun and Coppertail have collaborated on an Irma IPA, labeled pictured here, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Feeding Florida.
  13. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Scheduled for a spring 2018 opening, Datz DTSP will adjoin the forthcoming James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art with a restaurant at 180 Central Ave. This will be the first Datz to open outside of its flagship location in South Tampa. They will also open a small Datz cafe inside the museum....

    Workers install sandstone from India on the entryway walls of the new Tom and Mary James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, St. Petersburg, Wednesday, 8/23/17. A new Datz will adjoin the museum, and a cafe will open inside. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  14. Restaurant review: Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights should focus on mom-and-pop pharmacy vibe

    Food & Dining

    By Laura Reiley

    Times Food Critic


    Sometimes, the more time you have with a project, the more complicated it gets. I started hearing about Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights about 18 months ago. It was the vision of Ujwal Patel, a pharmacist;

    Ujwal's wife, Jessica Patel, also a pharmacist; and Ujwal's cousin, Badal Patel, an internist. They wanted to bring back America's historic mom-and-pop drugstores, the kind where you'd hang out, have a BLT while swinging your legs at the lunch counter, kibbitz with your community and, oh yeah, get your antibiotics prescription filled. This was, Ujwal says, the antithesis of the modern-day CVS or Walgreens, which he says are fairly lousy environments for patients and pharmacists alike....

    Mortar & Pestle, which was many months in the making, opened Aug. 11. The restaurant space is not connected to the pharmacy. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  15. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again


    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your mother's or grandmother's slanty cursive.

    Desserts fall out of favor. The pineapple upside-down cake and baked Alaska of the 1960s were abandoned for the Black Forest cakes and chocolate fondues of the 1970s, which in turn were slain by creme brulee in the 1980s....

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.