By Suzanne Schmidt
Ben Pumo, owner of Benedetto’s Ristorante Italiano, has changed the seafood dishes at his restaurant to bring in fresh fish from other areas like Maine and Hawaii due to the recent Gulf oil spill.
“We have stocked up on shrimp and once we run out, we will get it from the east coast,” Pumo said. “We are now serving monchong from Hawaii, which is a buttery, meaty fish with a texture almost like chicken and an unbelievable taste. We are also bringing in fish from Maine where it comes from our own dock. We have haddock, Ipswich clams, and Maine lobster.”
The restaurant is also serving mahi-mahi and big eye tuna from Hawaii and Chilean sea bass. Sean O’Connor, general manager of the restaurant, said he thinks it is a good idea.
“People won’t want to eat seafood as much with the oil spill,” O’Connor said. “We are getting our seafood now from all over the place.”
Pumo said his restaurant is different from others for a number of reasons.
“The uniqueness of the piano bar and the type of cuisine we offer sets us apart,” Pumo said. “Everything we serve is so fresh. We also have a lot of talent here with the chefs and the servers.”
Vito Martucci, a chef at the restaurant, is from Italy and has worked in and owned a few Italian restaurants through the years.
“We have contemporary Italian cuisine with a flair of French and Latin influences,” Martucci said. “The atmosphere is nice since we have live music every night. The piano adds a New York flair to the atmosphere.”
The restaurant can also serve up made-to-order dishes.
“A lot of people think eating Italian means that they have to eat garlic, but everything we make is made-to-order,” Pumo said. “We can make something special for people who are lactose-intolerant or we can make it with wheat pasta. Also most of our dishes are vegetarian or can be made that way. We truly try to have something for everyone.”
Lillian Stark of Land O’ Lakes has been eating at Benedetto’s since it opened. She said she keeps coming back because the staff is so inviting, the atmosphere is cozy and the food is excellent.
“He has a real knack for coming up with creative and delicious dishes,” Stark said. “It is a place I like to go weekly to just hang out. I am from New York and it is hard to find an Italian restaurant that can deliver such great food. Plus I love the piano bar, it makes it so much fun.”
The restaurant is also offering early dinner specials from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. For $14.95 customers get a beverage, house or Caesar salad, a choice from eight entrees and either key lime pie or spumoni for dessert.
“It is a good deal and that is what people are looking for,” Pumo said.
The restaurant, 21529 Village Lakes Shopping Center Drive in Land O’ Lakes, is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call (813) 909-9694 or visit benedettoitaliano.com.