Tampa Pizza Joints Rock New York Style and Exotic Toppings

One of the classic immigrant populations of Tampa is the Italians. They originally came to work in the cigar factories of Ybor City. They brought with them their ideas, their culture, and especially their cuisine. However, it wasn't until another transplant population, New Yorkers, started putting down roots here 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.


New York New York Pizza is perfectly located in the heart of the Ybor City entertainment district, and 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 with a crust that is thin and crispy and a huge number of toppings available. Other locations include SoHo, Wesley Chapel, West Chase and Riverview.

Grimaldi's Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Grimaldi's Pizzeria

If you're looking for a break from the large chain pizzerias, then Grimaldi's may be just the ticket. Conveniently located in Tampa's Westshore Mall near shopping and the business district, this award-winning restaurant is the perfect spot for a weekday lunch or intimate date night. The franchise got its start in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, so you know the focus is on New York style pizza. They make their secret recipe dough fresh daily and use only the freshest ingredients to prepare the pies before tossing into their coal-fired, brick-oven. The New York-themed decor is casual but upscale with plenty of indoor and outdoor covered seating.

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.


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).

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 crusts 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 have pizzas that you might actually find in Naples. Reservations might be in order to avoid a wait.

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.

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
Photo courtesy of Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza is a small chain with three Tampa locations. This location is in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa, but all feature a winning combination of top-quality ingredients, authentic 800-degree coal-burning ovens and personalized service that set them 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. Check their website for details on the other Tampa locations.

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 a 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.

South Tampa
Cappys Pizzeria

Cappy's is a very popular, award-winning Tampa-based pizza chain. There are five area locations, but the South Tampa location is the original and still the fan favorite. Cappy's is dedicated to pizza which is pretty much 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 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.

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 near to popular downtown hotels if you're looking for a great nighttime snack.


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