For many-a-folk, making an over-seas trip is costly and doesn’t quite fit in with a 9 to 5 work week.  Pia’s Trattoria is a charming slice of Florence in Downtown Gulfport that allows you, if only for a moment,  to live the life of an Italian local.  This cozy cottage is engulfed in character and romantic atmosphere with dim-lighting and wooden decor are woven together to create a truly intimate setting for comfortable and long conversation.  Dainty, mismatched lanterns and candle sticks adorn picnic benches on the outside patio surrounded by a flowering garden. While sitting inside, you are surrounded by wooden wine racks filled with countless bottles of reds and whites in true Italian fashion.

The mint plant on each table brings a natural beauty inside and hints to the fact that Pia’s prides itself on fresh ingredients. The mint and basil bushes that line their walls out front can be found in their mojitos, deserts and in the same dish that I bought, the shrimp ravioli.

Known for their fresh seafood and ingredients, Pia’s can boast that almost everything they buy comes straight from the Tampa Bay. Most other ingredients are organic and come from local markets including Mazzaro's and many others.

My dish was nothing short of delicious with generous shavings of parsley, chive, and garlic sprinkled over the shrimp-stuffed ravioli, then topped with four large shrimp and imported parmesan ( the good stuff). Sitting in the middle was a good portion of sauteed spinach mixed with olive oil and butter.

Overall the dish was not too heavy and not too fishy, but this little slice of heaven will cost you! While my dish was a little on the high side settling in at a good $22, most others will range somewhere between $13 to $15 for dinner and $10 to $12 for lunch. Top that off with a nice glass of wine (which I did) at $9 and it can quickly total $30 per person, yikes!  I’m not sure that you can really put a price on scrumptious though.

The dinner menu at Pia's is speckled with seafood, ravioli, tenderloin and a lasagna that is filled with their famous meat sauce. The lunch menu is short consisting mainly of panini sandwiches and other light fare.

As the stifling humidity subsides I would suggest spending a light and breezy morning having breakfast on the Pia’s patio to try their “crespelle” and a cappuccino.  These little Italian pancakes can be filed with anything from strawberries and whipped cream to tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese. The breakfast menu is a little lighter on the wallet and will range anywhere between $6 to $12.

The visit to Pia's is as close to Old Italy as one can without spending a grand for the ticket and well worth your visit.