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By CHRIS SHERMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000
MALLS 'N' MEALS
The newest chain aimed our way is Maggiano's Little Italy, historic family-style Italian from Lettuce Entertain You, the Chicago themesters, and Brinker International, the folks who brought you Steak & Ale, Chili's and Romano's Macaroni Grill. Coming to Tampa's WestShore Plaza next spring.
What's different from other Italians?
Creators gave Maggiano's a decor from prewar Little Italy, and red-checked tablecloths with dark wood furniture. The menu is long on southern Italian favorites such as mostaccioli and chicken Marsala. They've got full dinners with portions and tables for families of all sizes; a la carte entrees run $11 to $30.
And it'll be big -- 650 seats. That's a big family.
At St. Petersburg's new Bay Walk, TooJay's deli and Adobo Grill are the only restaurants open, so they're packing them in. (Next up: Johnny Rockets on Dec. 18.)
Lines form for pastrami, corned beef and seven kinds of rugalach before noon at TooJay's on weekdays and fill the place for family dinners; it's as if Wolfie's never closed. Great liverwurst, but put more kraut and Russian dressing on those reubens.
Red Mesa spinoff Adobo Grill pulls in younger crowds at lunch and all through the movie schedule. It's good to have fish tacos back.
Centro Ybor has opened its Big Mouth, a Johnny Rockets with millennial attitude (and burgers, sandwiches, chopped salads and sides). With prices from $2.45 to $4.95, Centro gets much-needed budget bites.
... Jim Bowie steak knives. When I order a top-dollar steak, why do I get a a blade that Crocodile Dundee would envy? Restaurants used to strive for steaks so tender you could cut 'em with a butter knife. Giving me a saw-toothed cutlass has a lot of macho appeal: I think I might have to flay the beast, too.
-- CHRIS SHERMAN, Times food critic