Tampa's Top Choices for Authentic Italian Cuisine are Delizioso



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. 

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. 



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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.


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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.


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Rocky Point
Armani's
Photo courtesy of Armani's


 

Armani's is an award-winning restaurant located on the 14th floor of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. This popular local eatery is best known for it's sophisticated ambiance and panoramic views enjoyed through floor to ceiling windows. For the first course, guests may choose their own appetizers from a wide range of selections available on the famous antipasti bar. Pasta dishes include both established as well as more creative offerings. Entrees include a nice selection of classic veal and seafood dishes including the traditional osso buco, but if you're looking for something a little different, seasonal options are on offer. Armani's is ideal for romantic dinners and special occasions. Reservations are suggested.


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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 â€" 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.


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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.


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Bella's Italian Cafe
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


 

Bella's has been a favorite of locals in South Tampa for over three decades. Featuring home-cooked flavors, everything is prepared from scratch here including their pizza dough and pasta. Diners return often to tuck into the delicious wood-fired pizzas and full menu of classic Italian favorites. Although the decor could easily seem overdone, thanks to subdued lighting and gracious details, Bella's greets guests with a relaxed charm. The open kitchen provides a hint of what's to come for inside diners, and there is also a patio with outdoor seating. Late hours and favorable prices heighten Bella's appeal with the after-clubbing crowd.


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Osteria Bar & Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


 

Located in the heart of downtown Tampa is Osteria Bar & Kitchen. The result of a synergistic partnership between local restaurant entrepreneurs and celebrity chef Fabio Viviani, this sophisticated concept presents diners with rustic, yet refined Italian cuisine. Chef Viviani has transformed traditional recipes and elevated them to please the increasingly erudite palates of today's diners. A few items to try include the Kobe meatball appetizer, the Chianti braised short rib with light-as-a-cloud polenta, the unique and complex chicken marsala, and any of the desserts. At once a spot for casual snacks, upscale dining, and a late night bite, the stylish and modern decor translates well from day to night, complemented with pops of tradition and humor.


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Channelside


 

Tucked away in a corner of Tampa's Channelside district is Cena, a popular Italian restaurant that has gathered a loyal following despite a somewhat out of the way location. Chef Michael Buttacavoli presents simple, modern menu items that are elevated by expert preparation, creative presentation, and quality ingredients. Chef's mastery of rustic Italian cuisine shines in his risotto dishes, a definite must-try, as well as in his charcuterie and cheese selections. The wine and cocktail lists are very well curated featuring the classics as well as more modern options. The decor matches the cuisine and is also modern and minimal, but still very cozy and friendly, with diners raving about the great service.


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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.


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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.


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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye

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