Nov 21, 2023 - News

Bite club: Fact-checking lasagna at Vela Italian Tavern

Tampa's Vela, an  Italian Mediterranean tavern.

Tampa's Vela. Photo: Yacob Reyes/Axios

We recently met near the Gandy Bridge and grabbed dinner at Vela Italian Tavern.

State of plate: The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant opened in October at Tampa's Westshore Marina District. It's got dim lighting, neutral colors and comfy booths, which makes for a good hangout spot.

  • Vela serves everything from octopus carpaccio to focaccia sandwiches. Their prices are fairly reasonable; most dishes range from $15 to $25. Cocktails come in at under $16 — and half that during happy hour.

The bites: We couldn't agree on an appetizer. Yacob landed on hummus topped with spiced beef ($15), while Kathryn ordered croquetas de jamon — golden brown on a bed of tomato sauce and Grana Padano cheese ($15).

  • Yacob then moved on to a chicken kabob, paired with slices of soft pita, more hummus and a smattering of tzatziki sauce ($17). He finished with pappardelle pasta — creamy, herbaceous ($25).
  • Kathryn chose the French onion burger topped with raclette cheese and served with a side of fries ($19). She ended the dinner with Vela's lasagna — which the menu describes as having a whopping 100 layers.
A 50-layer lasagna smothered in bolognese sauce and grated white cheese.
A work of art, really. Photo: Kathryn Varn/Axios

Yes, but: We're reporters and can't have nice things. The dish didn't look like it had quite that many layers, so Kathryn talked to the head chef to get the lasagna low-down.

  • Turns out, it's just 50, head chef Brett Robinson told her. The kitchen initially made the dish with 100 layers but couldn't sell enough portions quickly enough, so he cut it down.
  • A layer consists of a noodle, a mixture of béchamel and bolognese sauces, and mozzarella cheese, Robinson said.

The verdict: Layers, shmayers. The lasagna was delicious, and so was everything else we tried. We'll be back soon, Vela.


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