If you’re looking for a fantastic Italian dinner, Tampa is a good place to look. Thousands of Italians immigrated to Tampa in the late 1800s to find work in the cigar factories of Ybor City. Over time, they have become an important part of Tampa’s ethnic fabric which is evident in the quality and number of Italian restaurants that can be found here.
To help you pick the perfect eatery, 10Best has rounded up a short list of the best Italian restaurants in the city.
The upscale, Rat Pack ambiance of Donatello takes you back to the days of Bogart and Sinatra, providing an evening of nostalgia and romance while dining on expertly prepared Italian classics. Other options, like the ultra-hip 717 South, highlight modern Italian fusion cuisine in a contemporary setting.
Many Italian eateries feature a family-friendly, bistro feel, such as Bella's Italian Cafe. Bella's is a long-time favorite of locals who return again and again for the homemade pasta and freshly prepared sauces.
This is a tiny sample of the amazing Italian food Tampa has to offer, so feel free to use this list as jumping off point for your own culinary explorations.
Gio's Italian Restaurant
Gio's Italian Restaurant is hidden away in the back portion of a shopping center at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue. It can be hard to find, but it's worth the search, offering well-prepared classic Italian favorites such as their wonderful Chicken Marsala. This is a family-run restaurant featuring nice bistro-style decor and a quiet atmosphere with piano music to accompany your meal on weekends. The service is great and many of the employees have been around for many years. Gio's has quietly built up a strong following so it's a good idea to make reservations, especially on weekends. ((813) 932-1922)
Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bar - Tampa
Timpano Chophouse revives and celebrates the Chicago supper club with an emphasis on martinis, Sinatra and old-school table service. The restaurant specializes in preparing a wide variety of aged, hand-cut steaks, chops, veal and house-made pastas. Some other menu favorites include their delicious flatbread pizzas, the perfectly prepared Osso Bucco, and the simply prepared mussels. Next door the Starlight Lounge serves up live entertainment daily (in keeping with the Rat Pack theme) along with a good variety of martinis and specialty cocktails. On weekends they offer brunch with era-inspired favorites like the Chairman's Eggs Benedict, and suitable offerings from the bar including a "create your own" Bloody Mary bar with all kinds of fixins. (813-254-5870)
As you would expect from a place named after a famous Italian sculptor, Bernini is going for the classical vibe. Fine art and decorative columns may fill the space, but what we're really interested in is the gourmet food. Dishes include black Angus beef, orange-glazed duck, and fresh salmon. The highlight of the menu is the authentic wood-fired flatbread pizza and the opulent martinis. You're also going to need to save room for dessert, featuring fresh spins on classic Italian favorites. Lunch is definitely more casual than dinner, which includes live jazz music. This is a great spot place to fuel up before taking on the nightlife in Ybor City. (813-248-0099)
Osteria Natalina is a casual restaurant located in a strip mall in south Tampa. As its location suggests, the restaurant is unassuming from the outside, and once inside, it's pretty unassuming there as well. But looks are not everything - and in this case, they just don't count. The authentic homemade specialties served here are rhapsodized about throughout Tampa. After being greeted warmly upon entering by the owner, Spartaco, expect to be dazzled. Dishes are reflective of the owner's birthplace, Rimini, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, and are based on his mother Natalina's recipes. Specialties also reflect the owner's birthplace with a focus on seafood and homemade pasta. ((813) 831-1210)
Eclectic and sophisticated describes the scene at this South Howard address. The restaurant features an intimate atmosphere with décor featuring Art Deco paintings, stained wood trim, high ceilings and an open kitchen. But what visitors really flock to are the culinary creations of Chef Robert Masson. Expect modern takes on Italian classics – for example, manicotti stuffed with lump crab, scallops and shrimp, veal scaloppini, or penne with jumbo sea scallops and pesto. In keeping with the place's cosmopolitan feel, the menu also lists a handful of Asian-inspired dishes, sesame chicken and Szechwan duck breast among them. The hip young professional crowd also appreciates the extensive wine list, martinis and creative specialty drinks. (813-250-1661)
Bella's Italian Cafe
A favorite of locals in South Tampa, Bella's has been around for 28 years. Although it could easily be pretentious, thanks to subdued lighting and gracious details, Bella's prefers to greet guests with relaxed charm. In fact, it's a delightful place to dine throughout the day, and folks return often to tuck into wood-fired pizzas and a plethora of delectable pasta dishes. The open kitchen provides a hint of what's to come, and whether you choose a chicken entree, stuffed eggplant, an appetite-pleasing bowl of pasta, or a bit of tiramisu, you'll see the kitchen's skill immediately. Late hours and favorable prices heighten Bella's appeal. (813-254-3355)
La Terrazza is a well-established Italian restaurant located in Tampa's historic Ybor Ctiy neighborhood. Popular with locals and visitors alike, this quaint eatery offers diners some of the most authentic Italian food in town at a surprising reasonable price. Small and intimate, this is the perfect spot for a romantic date, but the friendly service and welcoming atmosphere makes La Terrazza a favorite among families as well. Featuring fresh pasta and high quality ingredients, the expertly-prepared cuisine is classic Northern Italian. Wine lovers will also be impressed with the excellent, well-curated wine list. (813-248-1326)
Understated elegance and a premiere dining experience await you at this celebrated restaurant. The décor sets the stage for romance with tables set with fresh roses, crystal and china, providing a perfect lead-in for the traditional Italian cuisine. Waiters in black tie deliver perfectly prepared osso buco, linguine with lobster, and poached salmon with shrimp and asparagus. You'll also find beef carpaccio, a grilled porterhouse and pasta with scallops and calamari. The extensive wine list, populated with numerous Italian vintages, ensures that you'll have a perfect complement to the meal. Finish off your dining experience with a divine dessert of profiteroles or Grand Marnier souffle. (813-875-6660)
Pelagia's is located in the Marriott Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza Mall and is the perfect spot to fortify yourself for a long day of shopping. This beautifully decorated trattoria reflects a contemporary Milanese style and the service is impeccable. There is a spacious outdoor patio for dining al fresco. Mediterranean-influenced Italian dishes include lobster ravioli, pan-seared sea scallops with Key lime emulsion, spinach-potato gnocchi and sautéed Blue Nose bass. Although not well known in Tampa as a breakfast spot, they offer one of the most extensive breakfast menus in town as expertly prepared as their lunch and dinner options. (813-313-3235)
Bright and airy, this chic restaurant rests atop the Hyatt Regency and affords extensive views of the Tampa area. Its menu of northern Italian cuisine centers around seafood, pasta, poultry and steaks, but the specialty of the house is veal, especially scaloppine Armani. For a first course, guests may choose their own appetizers from the selections on the antipasti bar. Entrees, which include marinated salmon and rack of lamb, are classic but creative and have contributed to the many awards the restaurant has garnered. Frequented by celebrities, Armani's is also ideal for romantic dinners and special occasions. Jackets and reservations are required. (813-207-6800, 813-874-1234)
About Skye Rodgers
Skye has lived in Tampa for over 16 years and spends much of her time exploring the region and discovering its hidden treasures. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no cold, no snow climate and enjoys basking on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and navigating the waters of Tampa Bay.
When not out exploring Tampa, Skye is a freelance writer and public relations professional. She currently provides public relations counsel on a freelance basis to non-profits, social enterprises and small business.
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