Experience Tampa’s Top 10 Italian Restaurants

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Embark on a culinary journey through Tampa and the surrounding Bay Area as we unveil the city’s top 10 Italian restaurants, each offering a delectable taste of Italy on the west coast of the Sunshine State. From authentic trattorias serving up generations-old family recipes to modern bistros redefining Italian cuisine with innovative twists, Tampa’s dining scene is a haven for lovers of pasta, pizza, and everything Italian.

Join us as we explore the flavors, ambiance, and hospitality that make these eateries stand out as the finest Italian dining destinations in Tampa. Whether you’re craving a comforting bowl of handmade pasta or seeking a more sophisticated fine dining experience, let us guide you to experiencing the best of Tampa’s Italian restaurants.

Italian Culinary Adventures in Tampa

From Clearwater to the historical Ybor City, plenty of flavors and textures are on offer in Tampa Bay’s Italian restaurant scene. You can experience every variation of pasta, pizza, seafood, and gelato, not to mention the refreshing drinks from Italy that are perfect accessories for every primi and secondi piati available. There are Michelin Guide mentions for more demanding patrons, or even small, family-owned options for those looking for great Mediterranean dining on a budget.

Homemade spaghetti, carpaccio appetizers, and Neapolitan Pizza are just a small bite of what Italian food lovers can experience in Tampa. Fasten your seatbelts, as we’re about to departure on an Italian culinary adventure of a lifetime.

Rocca

Michelin Guide’s one-star restaurant Rocca is headed by chef Bryce Bonsack, who blends his New York know-how with Italian training and is the mastermind behind the restaurant’s of-the-moment cuisine. It is known for its scratch kitchen that uses locally sourced ingredients to create its assortment of pastas, skillfully made in-house, as in spaghetti al limone, tossed with knobs of blue crab and lemon, shaved garlic, and zucchini. Rocca’s desserts are a delightful bookend to an impressive meal, such as the basil custard topped with a brunoise of fresh apples and a layer of streusel.

Cena

Cena is a chic, white-tablecloth eatery serving elaborate dishes twists on classic Italian fare, from pasta to seafood. Overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk, the venue provides a modern and elegant setting for Italian cuisine enthusiasts. Cena offers a diverse menu with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. 

Reservations for dining are advised, as guests flock to savor the house’s Truffle Mushroom Risotto, Braised Oxtail, and Rustic Bolognese, among other Italian specialties, in the fine setting by the Hillsborough River.

Donatello

Nestled in Hyde Park, this Italian restaurant exudes a classic charm with its white tablecloths, soft lighting, and live piano music. The Tiozzo family has run Donatello for over 38 years, a history shown on its walls featuring frescoes and pictures of famous regulars of the past, providing a charming and unique experience. 

This Italian restaurant offers an extensive menu featuring dishes from every corner of Italy such as the Milanese Osso Buco, a slow-braised veal shank served with saffron risotto, showcasing the restaurant’s commitment to traditional flavors and fine dining.

Carmine’s Restaurant & Bar – Ybor

Located deep in historical Ybor City, this restaurant offers a mix of Spanish, Cuban, and Italian cuisines, gathering some of the best references and flavors that are still traditional to Florida’s culture. With offerings that range from Cuban and meatball sandwiches to parmigiana and piccata dishes, Carmine’s never goes astray from the food cultures it honors and still delivers a delectable experience to guests. 

Following its historical location, the venue boasts an old-school ambiance and feel, but still manages to be fun and comforting. Those are just some aspects that make Carmine’s one of the best Italian restaurants in Tampa, and a definitive favorite among locals. 

Il Ritorno

Known for its modern take on Italian cuisine, Il Ritorno has gained acclaim for its innovative dishes and commitment to using high-quality, seasonal ingredients. With a chic and contemporary atmosphere and indoor and outdoor seating options, the restaurant features a menu crafted by Chef David Benstock, who focuses on creating dishes that showcase the flavors and techniques of traditional Italian cuisine while incorporating a modern and creative twist. 

Specific dishes may vary from season to season, but Italian restaurant institutions always offer homemade pasta, seafood, and meat dish options. Il Ritorno is located in Saint Petersburg which expands on Italian cuisine options across the Tampa Bay Area.

OLIVIA

This South Tampa Italian restaurant is known for its authentic flavors of a traditional trattoria with the creative flair of a chef-inspired menu by Chris Ponte. OLIVIA has a casual atmosphere of sophistication and is perfect for regulars and those simply looking to relax with friends over drinks, from imported beers from Italy to aperol and limoncello-based craft cocktails. 

In regards to food, guests might want to try OLIVIA’s twist on a mini rigatoni with ragu Bolognese, as well as its pizza offerings, featuring ingredients such as truffle honey, Béchamel sauce, and a selection of fine cheeses. Be sure to attend their weekend brunches, when special menu items are offered.

Bella’s Italian Café

Family-owned Bella’s is one of the longest-standing Italian Restaurants in Tampa, and has been an institution of the Hyde Park area since it was established in 1986. This has made it a favorite for locals and tourists alike, a status that has been elevated by the quality of its food and menu. Guests can indulge in their appetizers, of which the fried calamari is a particular highlight and panini sandwiches with fresh flavors at lunch. 

It’s time for more sophisticated pasta and pizza made with Bella’s homemade recipes at night. All are accompanied by savory Italian desserts and an outstanding wine selection for one of Tampa’s most charming Italian food experiences.

Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria

Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana, located in downtown Tampa, is a celebrated establishment known for its dedication to crafting authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. With a commitment to traditional techniques and high-quality ingredients, this Italian pizzeria offers a genuine taste of Italy. The menu boasts a variety of pizza options, but the “Margherita Pizza” stands out as a classic favorite. 

Beyond pizza, Bavaro’s offers an array of fresh pasta dishes, salads, and antipasti, all prepared with the same attention to authenticity and offered at great prices. The inviting atmosphere, with a combination of rustic charm and modern flair, makes it an ideal spot for casual lunches, family dinners, or gatherings with friends. Bavaro’s also has locations across the Tampa Bay Area up to Clearwater, so there’s not much excuse for missing it.

Osteria Natalina

Another hidden gem of a restaurant situated in Ybor City is Osteria Natalina, an establishment known for its commitment to providing an authentic Italian dining experience, both regarding tastes and hospitality. In business since 2000, the restaurant exudes a cozy and intimate atmosphere, making it an ideal setting for romantic dinners and family gatherings. 

Osteria’s menu showcases a range of classic Italian dishes prepared with care and precision, as shown in the grilled calamari salad, black mussels appetizers, and the Sacchettini du Pere, pasta purses filled with pear and cheese. The location works with a first come, first served approach, so it’s preferable to arrive early and avoid waiting for a table.

Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza

Don’t be fooled by the name and fame primarily based on its delicious wood-fired pizzas. There’s more to Cristino’s than meets the eye, as the menu features their namesake pizzas and traditional Italian restaurant fare, from Bruschetta appetizers and salads to Seafood Spaghetti. But it also goes the extra mile by offering hot and cold panini sandwiches and even an acclaimed selection of gelato to wrap up a fresh dining experience. It might be worth giving the Tampa Bay Area a chance and going up to Clearwater to taste what Cristino offers.

There are certainly many other great Italian restaurant options across Tampa and the Bay Area, and the places as mentioned earlier are just some suggestions on where to start your journey through Italy’s cuisine. What is certain is that Tampa is a great location for Italian food, no matter what specific tastes one might have. Whether you’re a resident or just passing by the region, try the Italian delights that Tampa offers.

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