Expert Tips


Best Restaurants in St. Petersburg / Clearwater

Top 10 Restaurants in St. Petersburg and Clearwater

When visiting St Petersburg/Clearwater, you’ll soon discover that it’s more than just a pretty place framed by soft, sugary beaches and scintillating sunsets. Fortunately for foodies, there’s a burgeoning gastronomic scene with new restaurants opening all the time.

They run the gamut from cozy, hole-in-the-wall beach “shacks,” to family-owned restaurants – some of them with an ethnic flavor – to chic, upscale bistros and eateries.

There’s no chance that you’ll ever go hungry when visiting these sunny shores as there are so many options to choose from. Some new additions such as The Reading Room and Brick and Mortar are well worth a visit as they offer a variety of tasty options in very pleasing surroundings. 

One of the area's top choices continues to be Pia’s Trattoria in Gulfport where you'll savor fine Italian Cucina in an Old-World ambiance. Lovers of fine dining will also enjoy Il Ritorno, Café Ponte and Birch and Vine, located in the historic Birchwood Inn.

Seafood lovers shouldn’t miss Sea Salt St Pete with its extensive raw bar and fresh seafood. It’s hard to narrow the choices down to just 10, but here are some choices, sure to get your taste buds humming.



St. Petersburg
Photo courtesy of Bella Brava

If burgers with a Tuscan twist, savory antipasti, pizzas and pasta - combined with a view of Tampa Bay appeal to you, then you've come to the right place. Pizzas, flatbreads and calzones cooked in a wood stone oven and European- style outdoor seating and excellent service are just an added bonus. Open since 2005, this hometown trattoria has been pleasing locals and tourists alike with an array of American, as well as Italian favorites. From soups, salads, pasta, seafood and meats, you're sure to find a winner. For dessert, indulge in the creamy, classic gelato or the tasty, traditional tiramisu. An extensive wine list and signature drinks complement the experience.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: You'll love the trendy atmosphere and the old world Italian flavor mingled with New World flair.

Michelle's expert tip: Ask for a table on the outside patio for water views of stunning Tampa Bay and bustling Beach Drive.

Read more about BellaBrava →

St. Petersburg
Brick & Mortar
Photo courtesy of Brick & Mortar

The brainchild of former full-time caterers Hope Montgomery and Jason Ruhe, Brick & Mortar burst onto the St Petersburg foodie scene in 2015 with a charming background in which to showcase distinctive "new American" cuisine. The self-described "rustic-chic nook" dishes up seasonal fare along with craft beers and wine. Re-purposed wooden pallets and funky terracotta flower pots lend a romantic vibe and sidewalk seating is a popular option, weather permitting. Meat and seafood options are plentiful and regulars rave about the burgers with truffle fries. The wide range of small plates is perfect for sharing – especially when accompanied by one of their tasty salads. An added draw is the amazing service and knowledgeable wait staff.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This restaurant is one of Tampa Bay Times' "Top 10 Restaurants of Tampa Bay 2019."

Michelle's expert tip: Be sure to call ahead on weekends as seating is limited.

Read more about Brick & Mortar →

Sea Salt St. Pete
Photo courtesy of Sea Salt St Pete

Situated in downtown St Petersburg's trendy Sundial Shopping Center, Sea Salt St. Pete has been showcasing a sophisticated vibe along with tasty cuisine since it opened in 2015. An expansive raw bar, freshly caught seafood crafted with high-quality ingredients and presented in an appealing way are just the beginning of the memorable culinary journey you'll embark on here. Oysters, shrimp, scallops and octopus pave the way for entrees, which include the fresh catch of the day along with ahi tuna, swordfish, grouper, Faroe Island salmon and more. Boasting a menu of more than 40 varieties of oysters (there's even an oyster sommelier) it's one of the largest selections in the area. Brunch becomes an "event" thanks to a creative raw bar featuring fresh shrimp and oysters as well as traditional breakfast staples. Mimosas, Bellinis or Bloody Mary's, of course, are optional!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: It's trendy and chic and the 80-ft long raw bar is something you shouldn't miss.

Michelle's expert tip: If you go between 4 - 6 p.m., Happy Hour allows you to sample some of their specialties and drinks for half off!

Read more about Sea Salt St. Pete →

St. Petersburg
Noble Crust
Photo courtesy of Noble Crust

Indoor, outdoor dining and an open kitchen situated in a stylish, contemporary setting make Noble Crust a must-visit along your restaurant quest. Known for their Italian cooking with a touch of Southern "vibe," you'll savor Italian cuisine as never before. As you would expect, the list of specialties is ample and includes a tasty selection of pizzas. The signature Noble Pig, features pepperoni, sweet fennel sausage, spicy soppressata (dry salami), pickled peppers and caramelized onions blended with fontina and parmesan cheeses and a zesty tomato sauce. The list of antipasti, salads, seafood and meat dishes is impressive. Save room for dessert as there are some sweet temptations on the menu. Brunch also draws a lot of foodies with a variety of standard breakfast favorites including waffles, eggs Benedict and plenty more.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: You can't beat the tasty selection of food set in a chic, yet casual setting.

Michelle's expert tip: Be sure to try the warm chocolate budino for dessert. It's a pudding served warm with whipped cream, a cookie crumb crust and salted caramel.

Read more about Noble Crust →

Birch & Vine, The Birchwood
Photo courtesy of Birch and Vine

Tucked into the 1920's Birchwood Hotel – listed in the National Registry of Historic Places – the award-winning Birch & Vine is known as one of the best restaurants in town. An ample wine and beer menu, along with signature cocktails, complement the fine dining options you'll find here. Dishes are created using organic ingredients and rotate seasonally under the vigilant eye of Executive Chef Lee Aquino. You're assured an amazing dining experience here, starting with tasty appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers along with a variety of mouth-watering entrees ranging from fresh seafood, ribs, steak and more. Decadent desserts add the perfect finale with a host of tasty temptations.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Locally sourced organic ingredients are used to create the rotating seasonal menu complemented by an impressive wine selection.

Kara's expert tip: Ask about their private dining room and special garden seating for small groups.

Read more about Birch & Vine, The Birchwood →

St. Petersburg
The Reading Room
Photo courtesy of The Reading Room

What was once a Christian Science Reading Room has morphed into one of the most popular restaurants in the area. An on-site garden from which fresh veggies are sourced paves the way for an ever-changing menu and tasty cuisine which is served in an airy dining room punctuated by a hint of wood smoke perfume. Small plates are popular and invite a sharing experience while larger plates highlight chicken, steak, seafood and vegetarian selections. The varied cocktail menu - featuring whimsical names - changes frequently, showcasing juices combined with berries, liqueurs and more. An ample wine list – which also changes seasonally – features reds, whites, Proseccos and Champagnes, which can be purchased by the glass or the bottle.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Fresh food, a great menu, "yummy" drinks and a friendly atmosphere. Who could ask for more?

Michelle's expert tip: Reservations are only held for 15 minutes so it's important to be prompt.

Read more about The Reading Room →

Cafe Ponte
Photo courtesy of Cafe Ponte

Showcasing contemporary American cuisine peppered with Italian, French and Asian touches, Café Ponte is a trendy, New York-style café with high Zagat ratings and a spot on Tampa Bay Times' "Top 10 Restaurants of Tampa Bay 2019." The brainchild of Executive Chef Christopher Ponte – a graduate of Paris' renowned Cordon Bleu - this is one of the area's most popular eateries. While the menu does change regularly, popular standards include a wide variety of soups, salads, burgers and pizzas as well as a list of tempting entrées and desserts. For first-timers, a six-course tasting menu provides a tasty overview of what's offered and might be a good way to begin your culinary experience. A smaller, four-course tasting menu is offered between 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Promising a classic upscale ambiance and delicious food to match it, Cafe Ponte offers the perfect dining experience.

Kara's expert tip: Between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. they offer a prix-fixe four-course special: soup, salad, any entree off the menu and dessert - all for just $36.

Read more about Cafe Ponte →

St. Petersburg
Il Ritorno
Photo courtesy of Il Ritorno

Conveniently located in downtown St Petersburg just steps from some of the city's stellar attractions, Il Ritorno has been offering discerning foodies a new twist to Italian fare since 2014. The food is not only delicious, but it's also pleasing to the eyes, garnering this bistro a spot on Tampa Bay Times' "Top 10 Restaurants in Tampa Bay 2019." Drawing on his philosophy that, "food should be fresh, exciting, textural and an all-around memorable experience for everyone," owner-Chef David Benstock has created a very appealing menu, always highlighting seasonal ingredients. Menus are printed daily with unique selections boasting a host of fresh choices from antipasti (people rave about the octopus Puttanesca), pancetta spiced duck breast and much more. Open for dinner only.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Authentic Italian fare dished up in an attractive setting in one of the area's favorite restaurants.

Michelle's expert tip: The menu changes almost daily, assuring the freshest ingredients, culminating in delicious Italian specialties. Be sure to ask your server for recommendations.

Read more about Il Ritorno →

Clearwater Beach
Carreta on the Gulf
Photo courtesy of Sandpearl Resort

Located on Clearwater Beach, Caretta on the Gulf is Sandpearl Resort's AAA four-diamond restaurant. Perched above the beach, this elegant eatery offers indoor/outdoor seating and a private dining room. The restaurant also features a ceviche bar, private wine room, lounge and bar. Named for the area's logger-head turtles, this classy eatery specializes in seasonal seafood and traditional American fare and is especially popular for Sunday Brunch. Leading the list of choices is brioche French toast with candied orange cream and maple syrup. Other favorites include freshly baked pastries, eggs, pancakes, omelets and more. The smoked salmon station is always a crowd-pleaser and the weekday breakfast buffet invites children 12 and younger to eat for free. Lunch and dinner menus offer a host of options - including sushi and raw bar - along with typical favorites ranging from salads, soups, sandwiches, seafood and more. Desserts are over-the-top!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Stunning sunset views, delicious food and an impressive wine list make Caretta on the Gulf an elegant dining option on the beach.

Kara's expert tip: In addition to their standard menu, they offer an all-natural, organic menu with perfectly paired organic wines.

Read more about Carreta on the Gulf →

Pia's Trattoria
Photo courtesy of Pia's

Set in an Italian-village-like ambiance in charming Gulfport, Pia's lends new meaning to Old World charm meets la dolce vita. Freshly made salads, delicious paninis, and a wide array of robust pasta selections draped in savory sauces, combine with tasty chicken, veal and mussel choices to deliver a satisfying dining experience. There is limited indoor seating, which is okay because most of the action takes place on the cozy brick patio. Daily specials are featured along with necessary staples such a variety of fresh antipasti and insalatas and Pia's Pesto Verde, her secret Neapolitan green pesto pasta. No matter what you order, you can't go wrong.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: It's both classy and cozy and the feel of Bella Italia is authentic. The delicious food seals the deal!

Michelle's expert tip: Be sure to try the cannoli. The crisp shell and cinnamony ricotta filling are delicious!

Read more about Pia's Trattoria →


Meet Michelle da Silva Richmond

Michelle da Silva Richmond is an award-winning travel editor and member of the Society of American Travel Writers and other journalism organizations. 

She has written hundreds of articles...  More About Michelle