(photo courtesy of Tampabay.com found under Creative Commons)
The Laughing Cat is an Ybor restaurant that specializes in "new & progressive Italian Cuisine." This means that they make their pasta from scratch and fuse the freshest ingredients together to create a unique dining experience. The restaurant, located in a tiny brick building, has a charming romantic feel to it. This is one of the reasons why J-Fur wanted to go there for Valentine's Day and why we returned last week to celebrate Lana's birthday.
Like most Italian restaurants, the Laughing Cat starts their guests with a basket of fresh baked bread. The bread is soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and goes great with olive oil and spices (though they surprisingly don't seem to have this at the Cat) or butter. It is a great thing to chew on while pondering your meal choice and catching up with friends.
The menu features an extensive collection of antipasti, insalate, zuppe, main courses and desserts. Unfortunately they don't have many main dishes that are vegetarian (forget vegan) but since the pasta is made to order it wouldn't seem to be a big deal (though it is, which I'll address a little later). On our Valentine's Day trip J-Fur and I started with mozzarella caprese and the insalata toscana (mixed greens, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apples, nuts and gorgonzola). For Lana's birthday we skipped the appetizers and went straight to the meal.
The caprese and salad were very good as the vegetables were fresh and juicy and the balance of oil and vinegar to vegetables seemed just about right. For our main dishes, I ordered the tortellini genovese minus the prosciutto (this was at Valentine's Day) and the Melanzana Parmigiana. J-Fur went with the gnocchi patate dolci and the spaghetti primavera.
Half of my Eggplant leftover the next day
None of the main courses are cheap. They start around 13.95 (for the pasta primavera) and go to somewhere around 40.00 dollars (for a fish special of some sort). While the portion size is very large, we can always get at least two meals out of it, the food isn't amazing enough that I feel comfortable shelling out so much money. My biggest problem is the lack of vegetarian/vegan options. It has been my experience that when you combat the lack of veggie menu items by ordering a meat dish and removing the meat the rest of the dish is thrown off just a tad. My tortellini didn't have as much punch as I had hoped and it lacked a little on the pesto side. J-Fur's gnocchi was very rich and needed a decent amount of salt (or tomato sauce) to really bring all the flavors together and her pasta primavera was only so-so (but is pasta primavera really ever that great?). The eggplant, which was vegetarian to begin with, was absolutely fabulous (though I can make it at home for much less money). There aren't major problems with the Laughing Cat. There is nothing that would be reason enough for me to say that it isn't good food or you shouldn't go there. I just think that it is too overpriced and limited for the vegetarian/vegan eater.
I've heard of a few other Italian restaurants in the Tampa area that are more suitable for vegetarians. Guess I'll have to give them a try.
The Laughing Cat is located at 1820 N. 15th Street, Tampa, FL 33605.
To really give the night an accurate feel I should've arrived at the Laughing Cat in a limousine (if you gonna pay more, why not pay more). I wasn't able to arrange this but I did the next best thing. I enjoyed the indietronica sounds of California's the Limousines. Specifically "Dancing at Her Funeral" and "Internet Killed the Video Star." Both tracks come from Get Sharp which was originally released in 2010 and then re-released early this year on Dangerbird Records.
"Did you hear what they said? That Rock 'N' Roll is dead? Yeah, Its like a zombie it'll dig itself back up again."