The Stone Soup Company
Every now and then I come across a place that is truly special and warms my heart. The Stone Soup Company in Ybor is one of those places and is at the top of my list of favorite places to go in the Tampa Bay. Not only is their food healthy and delicious, it is unique. Their menu is a crowd pleaser and consists of not only soups, but salads, sandwiches, appetizers and some of the most incredible pasta dishes I have ever tasted. I recently spent a relaxing Saturday afternoon at The Stone Soup Company and had the pleasure of visiting with chef and owner, Ilya Ben Goldberg. My visit was long overdue, as I have had a very hectic schedule over the last six months. Ilya warmly welcomed me and prepared some of their signature dishes that I am still thinking about two weeks later.
Myself and Ilya Ben Goldberg, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
I first met Ilya about two years ago at the First Annual Stone Soup Company Chili Cook-Off. While at the cook-off, I had the opportunity to try some samples of their soups and was impressed at how such a small sample could pack such big flavor. Last year I participated in the Second Annual Stone Soup Company Chili Cook-Off and I was up against some tough competition. I think I came in last but I had such a great time and decided to stay after the cook-off and try some items off their menu. Once again, I was blown away and loved everything I tried. I have grown to become such a big fan of Ilya’s and not only because of his talent in the kitchen, I am a fan of his generous heart. Ever since I was a little girl, my father always taught me how important it is to give back to those who are less fortunate and that is something that I practice to this day. My heart about melted when I learned that a week prior to opening, The Stone Soup Company vowed to take all unused produce and make vegetable soup to be donated to local homeless shelters. The practice became quite popular and after moving to their current, larger location, The Stone Soup Company created their “2” Campaign and for every cup of soup sold, a cup of soup is donated to local homeless shelters at the end of the week. Like their soup, this really warms my heart.
During my recent visit to the Stone Soup Company, I was anxious to try a very special sandwich that I had been hearing about from a few of my friends….The Cubemanti. It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I have tons of family in Pittsburgh and have had the pleasure of visiting the Steel City on several occasions. One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is Primanti Bros., which is a historical sandwich chain with their original location in the Strip District as well as other locations in the greater Pittsburgh area. Back in December of 1999, I was visiting family in Pittsburgh after returning from vacation in Rome and actually went on a date to Primanti Bros. It was my first time there and let’s just say after 12 years, the sandwich I had was the highlight of my night. A Primanti Bros. Sandwich consists of two thick pieces of delicious Italian bread, and then a pile of meat and cheese of your choice, (I went with Genoa Salami), an egg, french fries, coleslaw and a tomato. It was so big I could barely take a bite! I will always remember the evening of December 22, 1999 as the night I fell in love with a sandwich. Nothing quite compares to love at first bite.
Ilya, like myself, is a huge fan of the Steelers, which is perhaps why we get along so well. It is such a treat to meet someone who has as much appreciation for this sandwich as I, and his version of this Pittsburgh classic is just like the Steelers, a WINNER! Made with Cuban bread, your choice of freshly sliced meat, Provolone cheese, grilled and then topped with air baked french fries, coleslaw and a tomato slice, this sandwich is delicious version of my Pittsburgh favorite. In fact, I plan on ordering a tray of these for the Super Bowl since I am quite confident the Steelers will be making an appearance again. When I asked Ilya about he inspiration behind the Cubemanti, he brilliantly stated, “The gritty, blue-collar beginning of the Primanti Bros. creation in the city’s Strip District lends itself to the urban history of the immigrant-built 7th Ave. of Ybor City where the historic Cuban bread meets the Primanti and becomes the Cubemanti. The Steel City manufactured iron while Tampa rolled tobacco in cigar factories. As the days of manufacturing are a distant memory, the delicious tastes of food have become the tradition that remains.”
The Cubemanti, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
As much as I wanted to devour the entire sandwich, I knew I had other items to try and had to pace myself. The next dish I tried was the Ex’s Wife’s Pasta and it knocked my stilettos off! Savory Gyro meat, fresh onions, tomatoes, aromatic mushrooms and feta, sautéed and drizzled with a mouth-watering Greek dressing and served over linguine. Fantastico! I could not stop eating this dish. It is the perfect blend of Italian and Greek cuisine on a plate. I enjoyed hearing the story of how this dish was created and I urge you to go in, order this dish and ask Ilya how this scrumptious dish was conceived.
Ex-Wife Pasta, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
Next I was presented with another sandwich that truly made my mouth water. This hot little number is new on the menu and appropriately called ‘The Deb”. Created by Ilya’s number one soup girl, Debbi, this sandwich is a knockout. Tender Italian cut meats grilled and sautéed, topped with two cheeses, balsamic vinegar, banana peppers and served on grilled Cuban bread brushed with garlic butter on the inside and out, this creation is AMAZING!
The Deb, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
I was starting to get full but was determined to sample more dishes. Ilya prepared a nice selection of soups which consisted of Mama’s Chicken Soup, Three Cheese Broccoli Please, Lobsta Seafood Chowda and “Thai Me Up” Laska. Mama’s Chicken Soup was delicious and hearty with an incredible blend of flavors. It is the perfect soup to nourish the soul. The Three Cheese Broccoli Please was beyond delicious. I am a huge fan of broccoli and this soup really impressed me. I was excited to try the Lobsta Seafood Chowda since I love anything with seafood in it. This decadent masterpiece consists of lobster meat, crawfish, shrimp, fish, crab meat, and even more lobster all served up in a creamy chowder. It is wicked good! My absolute favorite was the “Thai Me Up” Laska. A spicy blend of coconut and green curry lime with a veggie broth, the flavors are intoxicating. It’s vegetarian as well as gluten-free. Served with rice noodles, it can be topped off with your choice of chicken or shrimp.
Assorted Soups, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
Next up was the “Fabulous” French Onion. Nothing short of fabulous, this hot little number is probably the best French Onion soup I have ever had. Baked and topped with toasted bread and a savory combination of Provolone and Swiss Cheese until it bubbles. Oui, s’il vous plaît!
"Fabulous" French Onion, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
By this point, I was pleasantly full and content, however there was a beautiful Greek Salad looking right at me. I will never turn down a Greek Salad and their version is fantastic. A refreshing blend of chilled iceberg, cucumbers, vine ripe tomatoes, pepperoncinis, red onion, ham, Kalamata olives, feta cheese and their homemade Greek salad dressing. Polí nóstimos! (very tasty). They have perfected this classic salad and can’t wait to return.
The Greek, Copyright 2011 - Michael Blitch Photography
The afternoon I spent at The Stone Soup Company was one of the most relaxing days I have had in months. Great food and great company followed by a nice walk through Ybor. I can’t express how wonderful Ilya and his staff are. I highly recommend The Stone Soup Company and I am looking forward to the Third Annual Chili Cook-Off this year. I have spent the last year perfecting my recipe and am ready for this year’s challenge! I will keep everyone posted as I get more details.
I always loved to give rather than receive, so I am giving a reader a $25 gift certificate to The Stone Soup Company. You will get one entry for each of the following, and just need to comment on this post once you have done so.
- Like The Stone Soup Company on Facebook by clicking here.
- Like My Other City by the Bay on Facebook by clicking here.
- Follow the Stone Soup on Twitter @xsoup4u
- Follow me on Twitter @tracyguida
- Tweet this post and mention both @xsoup4u and @tracyguida in your tweet
- Share this post on Facebook
*If you already do any of the above, leave a comment stating so. I will pick a winner on 1/31/12.