Italian cuisine is the number one choice of food for dining out in Florida. Therefore, there are hundreds of restaurants serving Italian food in the Tampa Bay area. With so many to choose from it can get confusing trying to figure out which restaurants are the best.
Here’s our list of the best Italian restaurants in on both sides of Tampa Bay. The list includes small romantic cafes, trendy bistros and top of the line white table-cloth restaurants. – By Barbara Ann
232 N. Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 875-6660 | www.donatellorestauant.com
If you are looking for that romantic Italian meal, Donatello’s might be for you. Fresh, homemade pastas and other carefully constructed dishes can be suggested by the tuxedoed staff. Donatello’s cuisine is mostly northern Italian. Fresh roses adorn each table. Be warned, though – Donatello’s is not inexpensive. Perfect for special occasions. Best bet dinning tip: Try the Vitello Dolce Vita . It’s veal scaloppini with imported Italian ham, mushrooms and truffle in a light white wine sauce.
Timpano Italian Chop House
1610 W. Swann Ave.
Tampa, FL 33606
813-254-5870 | www.Timpanochophouse.net
Located in the trendy and 30-something South Hyde Park area of Tampa, the Timpano Italian Chop House boasts a warm atmosphere and an award-winning menu. There’s live entertainment every Tuesday through Saturday evening and a lively and beautiful bar crowd. Best best dinning tip: check out their large brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Gigi’s Italian Restaurant
5901 4th Street N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
727-526-2400 | www. gigisitalianrestaurant.com
Gigi’s Italian Restaurant sits in a small strip mall off of 4th Street in northeast St. Petersburg. A nice quiet atmosphere, friendly staff and great Italian food is what this family owed restaurant is all about. Their pastas and lasagna are favorites but it’s their thin crust pizza that wins everyone’s hearts. Wednesday through Saturday a jazzy pop vocalist belts out tunes and provides a casual and hip bar scene for the 40+ crowd. Dinning tip: On Wednesday wine is half off by the glass or bottle from open till close.
3054 Beach Blvd. S.
Gulfport, FL 33707
727-327-2190 | www.piastrattoria.com
No-fuss, authentic Italian dishes served in a small storefront with an outdoor garden patio. The outdoor area is romantic with flickering candles, tiny lights and impeccable service. The menu is small but award-winning. Dinning Tip: Try anything pasta. They serve 5 different pastas with 6 types of sauce. Dinning tip: Try the spicy red pesto sauce over angel hair pasta. The combination of basil and hazelnut is beyond perfect.
3215 MacDill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33629
813-831-1210 | www.osterianatalina.com
Don’t let the hole-in-the-wall strip mall outside appearance fool you this is old-style Italian food at its best. Osteria Natalina is top of the line in service, charm and food. They hand make everything. Best bet dinning tip: Try the lobster and ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli it’s mind-blowing and the linguine with white clam sauce will give you goose bumps.
Verducci’s Pizzeria Trattoria
7736 Blind Pass Rd.
St.Pete Beach, FL 33706
727-363-7900 | www.verduccistpetebeach.com
Verducci’s is a quaint little mom and pop cafe that is minutes from St. Pete Beach. The sidewalk seating is very European and perfect for enjoying the ocean air with friend over great Italian food and wine. If you like pizzas, lasagna, specialty Italian foods along with warm hospitality, prompt service – come on down! Everything is handmade daily. Go early and enjoy, or come late and wait is the rule of thumb at Verducci’s. Dinning tip: Try the brick oven pizzas thin or thick crust. Their wine list is small and affordable.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
203 Westshore Plz.
Tampa, FL 33609
813-288-9000 | www.maggianos.com
Maggiano’s has two ways of ordering you food. You can order off the menu or you can order Family Style. With Family Style you get 2 appetizers, 4 entrees. This way you just pass the dishes around just like at all your family gatherings. If you run out of something they will just refill it for you. Word of caution call ahead for dinner reservations on weekends and most nights if you want to eat before 9 PM. Best bet dinning tip: Try the Baked Rigatoni Pomodoro.
Da Sesto Italiano Ristorante e Vino
7736 Blind Pass Rd.
Saint Pete Beach, FL 33706
727-209-2695 | www.dasesto.com
This restaurant Pinellas Park eatery has the feel of a small local restaurant in Tuscany. The food is excellent and all the pasta is homemade. The antipasti, veal dishes, pasta and “gravies” are all fantastic. Dinning tip: Try the chicken Marsala with homemade linguini. It’s a religious experience. At lunch try their Panini’s or take home some frozen pasta from their deli.
3309 Tampa Rd.
Palm Harbor, FL 34684
727-784-9100 | www.positanoph.com
Positano’s is a charming north Pinellas restaurant with great service and fantastic homemade Italian food. They offer veal, chicken, seafood, pasta and steak. Positano’s has a full bar with a busy daily Happy Hour from 4 – 8 p.m. Live jazz starts at 7 p.m. every Wednesday – Saturday. If you like to eat early and light, you’ll love their extensive early bird menu that’s not just for seniors. Dinning tip: Pizza lovers will flip over the authentic Neapolitan style pizza that arrives charred and chewy from their 800 degree wood fired oven.
The Laughing Cat Bistro
1820 N 15th St.
Tampa, FL 33605
813-241-2998 | www.thelaughingcat.com
Serving up what they tout as “New & Progressive Italian Cuisine,” we’re confident you’ll find their homemade food delicious. Laughing Cat is a hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant so if it’s classy you’re looking for, avoid. If you are looking for large portions and home taste come-on-down! Best best dinning tip: They have a $10, all-you-can eat buffet lunch, which might be one of the best deals in town.
Did we miss your favorite? We welcome your comments and encourage you to tell us about your favorite Tampa Bay Italian restaurants in the comment section below.