Tampa Bay Wine Escape by Barbara Ann Kelley, CBSTampa.com

This week on the Tampa Bay Wine Escape I was in the mood for an Italian meal with my wine.  My date Scott mentioned that Gigi’s in St. Petersburg had a special wine night on Wednesdays and we should check it out. Wine Wednesday? Sounded great, so off we went on another wine adventure!

Gigi’s Italian Restaurant sits in a small strip mall off of 4th Street in northeast St. Pete. The sign from the road was well-lit and easy to see, which is important when not familiar with the area. Their parking in front of the restaurant was limited, but I discovered a large well-lit lot in back.

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Gigi’s bar. (Photo Credit: Barbara Ann Kelley)

Once inside Gigi’s I was surprised, but impressed by the non-traditional look and feel of this Italian restaurant. The granite bar was surrounded by rich dark wood with beautiful glass pennant lighting, which gave the bar area plenty of mood lighting.

Once seated our waitress appeared.  She was a perky twenty-something named Kimberly. She welcomed us with a big smile and chirped sweetly, “Welcome to Gigi’s and Wine Wednesdays”. She explained that on Wine Wednesday all wine is half off from open til close. Always a deal hunter, I got so excited about the wine discount that I nearly overturned the table.

Once the table was stabilized and my date stopped laughing,  I told Kimberly that I was interested trying a Pinot Noir. She suggested her favorite a 2009 David Bruce from California’s Sonoma Coast.  She told us she loved this wine because it was spicy. That sparked my interest, so I ordered a bottle along with a Classic Caesar Salad and a Margherita pizza.

From the minute I tasted this Pinot Noir I was in a heavenly grape induced trance. This wine was full, rich and spicy! I wasn’t sure what spices were used, so I used my iPhone to look up information about the wine. The vineyard’s description of their Pinot Noir states, “it’s an expression of red cherry, cranberry and plum coupled with lingering notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and a subtle hint of clove.”

Kimberly and our bottle of Pinot Nior (Photo credit: Barbara Ann Kelley)

Kimberly told us when she drinks this Pinot she loves to put pepper in it. Startled but intrigued, I sprinkled a little into my glass. The little cutie was right! It was good. I’m sure true connoisseurs would shake their heads at this daring addition to a perfect glass of wine but, what the heck you only live once.

My mission to decompress from my middle of the work week worries had been accomplished. I had again found another great wine escape at Gigi’s with this spicy Pinot Noir.

If you prefer a more traditional red wine with your Italian food, I would suggest one of their many well priced Chianti’s.

Gazing around the room, I noticed the bar action had a lively and diverse crowd. Many were just locals catching a bite to eat and chatting with others. The majority of the clientele was 35 and over, which didn’t bother me,  I wasn’t looking for a young pick-up bar scene. I was looking for a wine and food escape mixed with some mingling. It would appear I was the majority in that pursuit.

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The female singer Misty added a jazzy undertone to the evening. Her singing was smooth and light, so as to not drown out conversation. I was impressed by Misty’s voice and selection of songs. She even took requests. Two couples even got up for a romantic slow dance to a Sade song.

Our salad came out fairly quick. My date and I both enjoyed the Caesar Salad. I honestly admit I am a picky eater. I like Caesar dressing to be fresh, tangy and light on the anchovy taste. Plus, I only like romaine hearts in my salad.  I was relieved to discover Gigi’s doesn’t serve the tops of the romaine leaf.

Kimberly at Gigi’s. (Photo Credit Barbara Ann Kelley)

Our Margherita pizza was incredible. It was juicy and loaded with fresh basil and thinly sliced tomatoes. The pizza was thin crust and had a generous amount of fresh hot mozzarella that stretched into long cheesy strings when served.  My date almost keeled over when Kimberly served it onto our plates…he insisted he was looking only at the pizza!

During our meal one of the owners Cyndi Shain came by to ask us how our food and wine was. She explained  that Gig’s was a family business and that they had four locations with the 4th Street being the largest of the restaurants. I could tell by the tone of  her voice this restaurant was her passion.  It also showed on her face and in the way that the staff smiled and provided great service.

Owner Cyndi Shain (L) and writer air personality Barbara Ann Kelley (R) (Photo Credit: Scott Walker Q105)

I  highly recommend Gigi’s on 4th street in St. Petersburg. It’s a great escape for a fun night on the town. They serve traditional Italian food and wine at a great prices, especially on Wine Wednesdays!

Our  2009 David Bruce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is normally $12 a glass and $41 a bottle. On “Wine Wednesday” it is $6 a glass and $20.50 a bottle.  Our giant Margherita thin crust pizza was $16.97. My date and I split a large Caesar for $9.

Hours: Sunday – Thursday 4-10 p.m. and  Friday – Saturday  4-11 p.m.

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Tampa Bay Wine Escape is a weekly column on the area’s best spots to have a glass of wine by Tampa Bay radio host Barbara Ann Kelley.  Know of a great Tampa Bay area spot Barbara Ann should head to next?  E-mail her at barbaraann@wqyk.com.

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