One of the classic immigrant populations of Tampa are the Italians. They originally came from Italy to work in the cigar factories in Ybor City. They brought with them their ideas, their culture, and especially their cuisine. However, it wasn't until another transplant population, the New Yorkers, started putting down roots in the bay area that Tampa started really making excellent pies.
Because the New Yorkers had a head start, many of our most popular pizza joints use the New York style crust. A classic example is Eddie & Sam's located in the heart of downtown. At this casual, hole-in-the-wall they take their pizza very seriously. How seriously? Seriously enough to import water from New York City!
New York doesn't have the market cornered when it comes to pizza in Tampa though. There are still some Chicago transplants making their famous deep dish pies around town. One notable spot is Cappy's which has been voted best pizza in Tampa many, many times by local media.
So if you're one of those people who judge the quality of a place by the quality of their pizza, you will find Tampa to be a place of very high quality and leave feeling happy and full.
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
Tampa's Mellow Mushroom offers three area locations if you can't make it to this Brandon location. As the originators of the "classic southern pizza," don't be put off by the hippie vibe at this pizza joint. The pies are serious, even if the decor isn't. With such favorites as the Kosmic Karma (tomatoes, spinach, and feta) and the Philosopher's Pie (steak, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts), there's something for everyone, even if it's a creation you haven't heard of yet. They also pride themselves on serving interesting microbrews from around the country. It's almost guaranteed that if you visit the Mushroom, you will experience something new and different that you can't have anywhere else. (813-685-1122)
New York New York Pizza
New York New York Pizza is perfectly located in the heart of the Ybor City entertainment district. A very popular spot to grab a late night slice after hitting the clubs. For those on their way home there is a convenient walk-up window. They offer a surprisingly extensive menu complete with chicken wings, salads, Italian subs, and pasta dinners - all made fresh from scratch. However, most people come for the pizza, New York style of course. Most agree it is delicious. The crust is thin and crispy and there are a huge number of toppings available. Other locations include SoHo, Wesley Chapel, West Chase and Riverview. (813-248-1845)
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
Anthony's Coal fired Pizza is located in Tampa's Carrollwood neighborhood, north of downtown. This hidden gem, with its winning combination of top-quality ingredients, authentic 800 degree coal-burning ovens and personalized service, stands apart from other area pizza joints. Pies are cooked "well done" and feature the finest quality mozzarella, Italian plum tomatoes, Romano cheese, fresh basil and olive oil. Other menu specialties, or "Italian soul food," include coal oven roasted chicken wings and sandwiches, as well as Italian dishes like hand-rolled meatballs with ricotta cheese and Eggplant Marino. There is also a south Tampa location, check their website for details. (813-265-2625)
What is notable about Precinct Pizza isn't necessarily the pie (which is great in itself), but the story behind it. A New York paramedic, after coming down with post-9/11 respiratory problems, decided to move down to Tampa and open a realistic New York pizza place. He has filled it with decorations and memorabilia from the city, enough to give even the strongest native New Yorker flashbacks. Precinct Pizza uses fresh, high-quality ingredients to prepare their pizzas combined with homemade marinara sauce and dough made from scratch each day. Then they are cooked in a brick oven that rotates to ensure a perfectly baked pizza every time. (813-228-6973)
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)
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)
Bavaro's Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria
Bavaro's Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria is built around an authentic Neapolitan wood-fired brick oven for the most complete pizza experience possible. Its location in the middle of downtown Tampa makes it a popular stop for both office workers and tourists visiting the museums along Tampa's River Walk. Their pizza are thin and soft with just a hint of crispness and their ingredients are either imported from Naples or sourced locally. Other places might have larger, more diverse menus, but few places have pizzas that you might actually find in Naples. Reservations might be in order and dinner is not available on Mondays and Tuesdays. (813-868-4440)
This is the most inventive pizza place in town. That's not to say that Gourmet Pizza is supremely expensive, you need reservations, or there is a dress code to adhere to, only that the pizza you get is both interesting and superior. There is an emphasis on making eclectic pies that are fresh, made from local ingredients and health conscious. Specialties include a cajun crawfish pizza, a southwestern pizza, and quite a few vegan selections. Located between downtown and Dale Mabry Highway near the SoHo neighborhood, the location is the definition of a "hole in the wall", so make sure you are paying attention to your directions (or just have them deliver). (813-258-1999)
Eddie & Sam's NY Pizza
For some people, an authentic New York pizza experience requires a hole-in-the-wall setting. If you are one of those people, Eddie & Sam's is for you. The ingredients, including water shipped down from New York for the dough, only add to the authenticity. The pizzas come out crisp and hot from the oven and include such favorites as primavera, Hawaiian, and Sicilian, hot and cold sandwiches, and buffalo wings. Eddie & Sam's has been a lunchtime favorite of the nearby office crowd for years, but it's also nearby a few of the more popular hotels for a great nighttime snack. (813-229-8500)
Cappy's is a very popular and award winning small Tampa-based pizza chain. It's also the only thing on the menu besides a few salads and calzones. They do thin crust New York style well, but it's really a Chicago deep dish mecca. It's as if you walked from our 90 degree heat into a pizza joint across from Wrigley Field. The crust is doughy and covered with cheese first, then sauce (as any deep dish aficionado will tell you, that's how it's done). Don't expect terribly inventive toppings, but all of the old standards are here. They also serve beer and wine. (813-238-1516)
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.
Read more about Skye Rodgers here.
Connect with Skye via: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest