Tampa Confidential: Local knowledge from local folks.
FAVORITE DATE-NIGHT SPOT:
Caffé Paradiso, sitting at the bar with my girlfriend, Lauren. We don’t need a menu. For an appetizer, I get six to eight lightly breaded large Key West pink shrimp and cold calamari salad. We get two entrees – veal piccata with capers and baked sea bass accompanied by sautéed spinach. Chef/owner Paolo Tini sets the ideal ambiance.
FAVORITE SPOT TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS:
During the day I like getting them down to Ybor City to enjoy a 1905 Salad from the Columbia while sitting at the bar and washing it down with a white sangria. Then I like taking them along 7th Avenue, smoking a Hemingway Short Story cigar and stopping into La France. Bern’s Steak House’s bar for dinner followed by the Harry Waugh Dessert Room is a no-brainer! Bern’s is truly a fine-oiled machine!
FAVORITE PLACE FOR SPECIAL FAMILY OCCASIONS:
My family has been celebrating special occasions at the former Malio’s Steakhouse and now Malio’s Prime Steakhouse since I was born! Derek Iavarone continues the family tradition at Malio’s Prime. I got my first job the summer of my 13th birthday, when Derek’s father, Malio Iavarone, hired me on as a water boy to oversee the regulars and ensure they had quality service. I learned from Malio what service was all about, and now I have one of my best friends, Derek Iavarone doing the same!
FAVORITE LOCAL BOUTIQUE
The Store located inside The Station on South Howard. It’s owned by Abby Griffith, who has fabulous style and keeps her hand on the pulse of unique fashion.
FAVORITE MEXICAN RESTAURANT:
Acapulco Mexican Grocery and Taqueria and Lolis Mexican Cravings are the only two authentic Mexican restaurants in Tampa. They are completely authentic tucked-away gems that prepare the freshest ingredients.
FAVORITE PLACE FOR AUTHENTIC CUISINE:
Rooster & the Till. Chef Ferrell Alvarez and Ty Rodriguez, the restaurant’s co-owners, have elevated Tampa’s foodie experience to heights like no others! They keep it real throughout your experience by addressing every detail, from décor and ambiance to knowledgeable servers offering a diverse twist on presentation.
FAVORITE ITALIAN FOOD:
Donatello, where Gino Tiozzo and his father, Guido, have been providing an authentic experience for everyone who walks through the front doors since 1984! I love sitting at the bar and listening to live jazz while occasionally pulling Lauren out on the intimate dance floor to cut a rug. Complete Tampa classic!
FAVORITE ASIAN FOOD:
Ichicoro Ramen hands down! Noel Cruz returned to Tampa from New York City to create a unique cuisine which continues progressively moving Tampa’s foodie meter off the charts!
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, especially the second weekend in March for the annual Gasparilla Music Festival. There is nothing like the two-day experience of listening to live music with the amazing skyline above and picturesque backdrop of UT minarets.
COOL TAMPA FACT:
Ybor City is its own separate entity from Tampa, where the Spanish, Italian and Cuban cultures put Tampa on the map.