Howl-O-Scream 2020: An Experiment in Social Distancing

But was it really necessary? Lets weigh the pros and the cons. Howl-O-Scream, 2020
2020 has put us into some... Interesting times. A global pandemic has managed to bring the entire country to a halt and we're having to adapt to the new precautions and safety measures. Add to that, there is seemingly something new happening every day. With that said, Busch Gardens has decided to go ahead and run their yearly Halloween event, despite the pandemic, no doubt to try to cash in on Universal's lack of Halloween Horror Nights. They have taken away the free ticket for top tier passholders (so yes, we paid) and you are required a reservation to get in. Lets go over the event!
Howl-O-Scream Band, 2020
Alright, once you get off the tram, you get your temperature checked, then you go through security, then you go to the gates. If you get there before HOS begins, make sure the let the gate person know so you can get a wristband that will allow you to stay in the park during the transition. They…

Esposito's: Carrollwood's Newest Italian Eatery

It's refreshing to see something local coming to the Carrollwood area.

Esposito's, 2020

"Alright Mark, you have some explaining to do!" Yes... I do. During the middle of last year, I took on a job that was a lot more demanding than the job I had at any point during this blog. I thought this job was crazy until the virus hit and everything started shutting down. Then I was telling myself that I couldn't possibly update this blog while the virus had everything shut down. Then I came to the realization that this virus may not end at any point during my lifetime. This very well may be the "new normal" and it's time to adjust. 

Yes, this is there menu, 2020

So, my mom's birthday came around and there was a new eatery that had come to her attention. Actually, it was hard to miss, every time you drive past it, there's a new sign showing off the opening of the restaurant that would be replacing the already overhyped and underwhelming Carmel that was there. On a side note, what is the deal with Carrollwood and their love of chains? Outside of a handful of restaurants, local business never seem to last. So, we all get dressed up and head out for a nice meal at the new, locally owned Italian eatery. The inside is identical to Carmel's, right down to the bar. I was a bit worried by this point. The bar didn't change, the seating didn't change, the layout, still exactly the same. But you didn't come here for that.

Salad, 2020

If you're solely reading to this paragraph and quitting, you're going to think I hated this place. And that couldn't be further from the truth. I do have to point out that I would probably skip on the appetizers and the salad, though. We got the artichokes and fried mozzarella, mozzarella being the better of the two, but it was so small it wasn't worth mentioning. The artichokes were just... Artichokes. There was nothing to them. I think they were breaded and came with a sauce that just did nothing for the flavor. Bland, boring, and seemingly just on the menu to say that they had appetizers. The restaurant did so much else right that it hurts me to say that they dropped the ball on the appetizers. The salad, was another miss. Just a few vegetables thrown together on a plate with almost no (if any) dressing. All wasn't lost at the beginning though, as their bread was amazing. Seriously, that was enough to keep the table happy until our food came out. Crispy, buttery goodness. 

Lasagna, 2020

I've fallen into this trap of judging how good an Italian place is based off of how exciting their lasagna is. And I do have to say that the lasagna at Esposito's didn't disappoint. It was a decent size to feed a dude as big as myself, and came with enough extra sauce to continue dunking (if that's your thing). The cheese to noodle to meat to sauce ratio was on point. There wasn't a single bite of this meal that disappointed. I also added a side of two meatballs on for good measure. By the time the lasagna was done, I could only fit one of the meatballs. I'll go out on a limb here and say that this is probably my favorite lasagna dish in the Tampa area. Stormy decided on a piece of salmon as her entree and right off the bat said it was too big. She somehow managed to put the whole meal down and was incredibly happy with it. 

Cannoli, 2020

FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not pay for this. My lovely mother kept mentioning that I review things online and this came out afterwards. It's possible that they were giving them out to every table as a "thank you" for coming out first day, or it could be because they were told they were being reviewed and I don't know which. Just know, I did not pay for this, it was provided by the restaurant, and no, I do not like to tell restaurants I'm reviewing them beforehand because of things like this. However, Stormy is a huge fan of cannolis. I, myself, am not the biggest fan. Everyone else at the table seemed to be ecstatic, though. So, this is a deconstructed cannoli. The whipped inside is served in the middle, with empty shells on the outside, and enough spoons to go to war. Grab a shell, scop some insides in, and you're on your way to Flavor Town (don't sue me, Guy). The cream is probably the best cream I've tasted in a dessert. The shells, while a little overwhelming at times (a bit too thick) complimented the cream. The best part about this dessert is that you can choose how much of the topping you want. If you prefer the shell, cool! If you want more of the cream, cool! There really is no wrong way to eat it. 

Meatballs, 2020

Things to know before you go:
- This is located next to a Chuck E. Cheese in a smallish parking lot. There is also parking in the back.
-Avoid the appetizers. Just save room for the (far superior) main course. 
- They do have a really nice Old Fashioned. I'd strongly recommend one of those. 
- This is one of those restaurants that will add to the experience if you have an awesome group to go with. I wouldn't suggest going alone, bring friends!

Do you enjoy a good Old Fashioned? Where is your favorite place to get a piece of lasagna? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt. Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. If you'd like to meet other people who love Tampa, consider joining our Facebook Group. Thank you all and I will see you next time!

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