Italy. This coastal country along the Mediterranean has left a powerful mark on Western cuisine, disproportionate to its size. Italy has gifted us with the freshest flavors, ingredients and dishes. Ingredients from diverse climates and geographical regions of the Southern European nation have contributed to the richness of its cuisine. There’s nduja from the Calabrian coast, pizza and limoncello from Naples, truffles from Piedmont, Parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto for a charcuterie plate from Emilia Romagna and of course, Sicilian bread and pasta. Your tastebuds will never bore on a culinary journey through Italia – but don’t pack your bags just yet. At the following restaurants, you can taste the delights of Italy without leaving Tampa Bay.
The dining experience at Rocca is curated thoughtfully down to the most minuscule details. Edible flowers, abundant herbs and even vegetables used in select dishes are grown by the chef’s mother in her garden.
“Our team puts more love and hard work into our food than almost anyone else,” Rocca chef and partner Bryce Bonsack says. “The bread, the handmade pasta, gelatos and tarts — everything we serve is made in-house.”
Ultra-fresh fare is accompanied by a lengthy wine list in an elegant setting. House-made pasta and fresh mozzarella hand-pulled to order tableside are absolute showstoppers.
323 W. Palm Ave., Tampa
(813) 906-5445 | roccatampa.com
BellaBrava New World Trattoria
It was 2003 and Dyce Craig and Robert Sanderson were traveling through Tuscany, sampling the best cheeses, pasta, herbs, meats, seafood and pizzas in the world, and they knew that Tampa Bay needed a restaurant blending Italian cuisine with the modern bustle of a New World urban lifestyle.
“Less formal than a ristorante, our service is casual, our prices remain reasonable and our emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than haute cuisine,” Craig says. “Old World flavor mingles with New World flair. From seafood to traditional pasta, pizzas and more, we are positive everyone will find something delicious to savor.”
BellaBrava’s unique Woodstone ovens cook delicious pizzas and a guest favorite, the crostata.
“Our ingredients are fresh, often locally sourced and evoke the flavors of Tuscany and other delicious cuisines from Italy,” Sanderson adds.
With friendly, competent staff, BellaBrava aims to be your casual dining spot.
Locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg | bellabrava.com
Bella’s Italian Café
Bella’s has been a South Tampa institution for 36 years, serving up rustic Italian dishes in a casually chic atmosphere.
“An extensive array of classic Italian menu options include pasta made fresh daily and pizza baked in Bella’s oak-fired oven,” says owner Joanie Corneil. “Lunch service resumes in late September, along with the launch of a new weekday happy hour, plus late-night specials.”
1413 S. Howard Ave., Ste. 100, Tampa
(813) 254-3355 | bellasitaliancafe.com
Noble Crust turns traditional Italian dining into a whole new experience.
“Noble Crust is unique as we mark the intersection of Italian cooking and Southern ingredients with our Deep South Italian,” says executive director of marketing and events Bradley Elia. “Our team crafts creative dishes with seasonal ingredients that make it hard to taste where the Italian ends and Southern begins.”
Locations in Carrollwood, Wesley Chapel and St. Petersburg | noble-crust.com
Forbici Modern Italian
Forbici provides a modern interpretation of traditional Italian dishes. Centrally located in bustling Hyde Park Village, the atmosphere is trendy, upbeat and social. Guests can enjoy unique twists on items such as the Calabrian chicken wings or meatballs, with vegan substitutes available upon request.
“A noteworthy highlight is Forbici’s authentic pizza Romana,” Next Level Brands partner Joseph Guggino says. “This classic is a perennial favorite — both the mozzarella cheese and dough are handmade in-house. The dough is prepared in advance and is allowed to ferment for 72 hours, making for a crispy, savory crust perfect for any topping.”
Forbici offers a warm, hospitable atmosphere ideal for any gathering, such as happy hours, celebrations and family get-togethers. Guests are welcome to enjoy various programming and specials, including live music featuring local talent. A roomy patio provides ample space for enjoying all the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. Perfect for any special occasion, Forbici’s newly renovated private dining room accommodates up to 22 guests. The spacious area allows for multiple table configurations in an intimate setting.
1633 W. Snow Ave., Tampa | (813) 251-8001 | eatforbici.com
Reminiscent of a home kitchen in the heart of Italy, Nabruzzi is serving food that’s fresh, homemade and authentic to the homeland.
“We’re bringing the heart of Italy back home to the neighborhood with our upscale Italian classics,” says Massimiliano Sabetti, owner and operator at Nabruzzi. “I never wanted to be the fancy restaurant. I wanted Nabruzzi’s to be casual with upscale food, a place to frequent, as opposed to only for celebrations or holidays.”
Fish fileted fresh in-house, hand-cut steaks, homemade pasta, authentic Italian pizzas made in a wood-burning oven and homemade desserts are all on the menu of this Lutz eatery.
6062 N. Van Dyke Road, Lutz
(813) 304-2583 | nabruzzitrattoria.com
Fast, fresh and delicious – Fazoli’s proves that you can enjoy quality homestyle Italian cooking without breaking the bank. Thoughtfully crafted Italian dishes are cooked in a friendly atmosphere and then served in-house or to go. Fazolis is the choice for fast casual Italian dishes you know and love at a great price point.
Classic dishes you’d find around Nonna’s dinner table such as pasta, pizza and breadsticks are professionally prepared and packed with flavor. Perfect for professionals on the go or for your next family gathering, Fazoli’s even has a drive-through and third party delivery service for convenience.
4011 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa
(813) 644-4789 | fazolis.com
Osteria Natalina is a family-owned restaurant that makes authentic Italian dishes using Mama Natalina’s recipes from Rimini, Italy. Served in a serene, intimate setting, Osteria Natalina brings the flavors of Northern Italy to Tampa.
“At Osteria Natalina, we use the finest ingredients imported all the way from Italy to make every single dish we serve,” co-owner Gus Akrouch says. “Seafood is our specialty. If you don’t see your favorite dish on the menu, ask for it and we would be very happy to do our best to make it for you,”
Co-owner Adolfo Aguire adds, “We pair our delicious food with a selection of Italian wines imported directly from Italian wineries. Our wine selection is carefully picked to give the best ‘vino e cucina’ (wine and kitchen) experience.”
3215 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa
(813) 831-1210 | osterianatalina.com
IL Ritorno translates to “the return” in Italian and fittingly, the restaurant marks the homecoming of chef David Lazer Benstock to St. Petersburg.
Modern and self-described as “for the discerning palate,” the restaurant is not afraid to take culinary risks. Pasta is made on-site daily, as well as focaccia, ciabatta and nduja.
“IL Ritorno is rooted in Italian cuisine, but we draw inspiration from cuisines all over the world,” Benstock says. “My favorite dishes right now are our squash blossom stuffed with steak tartare, our oxtail mafalde and our squid ink tagliatelle.”
The beloved restaurant has quickly won over guests by offering nearly perfectly rendered dishes with new and interesting flavor combinations, creating elegance within traditional, rustic cuisine.
449 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg
(727) 897-5900 | ilritornodowntown.com