Tampa’s Italian scene has evolved over the years from small mom-and-pops to more expensive trattorias, but Tampa has a long history of Italian food thanks to historic mafia ties, a bustling cigar industry, and Prohibition in the 1920s.
The Italian Club in Ybor City didn’t just arrive there by accident, Tampa has long been a town of immigrants. I haven’t been to many of the new spots in town, but I have some places that have a special place in my heart and when I make it back it always puts a smile on my face.
Here is where to enjoy delicious Italian eats in Tampa:
Gino’s Restaurant: This place is so special to me, it reminds me of growing up in Carrollwood which was once very working family orientated, back when the University Mall was a thing and before Brandon and Wesley Chapel became a thing. Gino’s is a neighborhood bar and an Italian restaurant. The family has owned it for who knows how long. Their Italian food is delicious and has not changed in the 15+ years I have dined there and they also have excellent burgers. I like to order simple comfort dishes here, such as the Baked Ziti or the Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken.
Their portions are huge so we always share and order appetizers and dessert. I don’t feel like too many people know about Gino’s outside of the area, but they are always busy whenever I go regardless. The divey bar on the other side of the restaurant always seems to be filled with bodies as well. When I was a kid and I lived in the apartment complex around the corner, they would know my order just by picking up the phone and I never forgot. I love this spot. Oh – and don’t miss the Banana Foster! 10006 North Armenia Avenue North, Tampa, FL 33612
Iaverone’s Steakhouse & Italian Grill: I grew up going here to eat while my Mom and her co-workers would enjoy happy hour after work on Fridays. The food is delicious and they have deep ties to the Tampa area. You really cannot go wrong with a Marsala or any of the seafood or pasta dishes. It’s all delicious and a little pricey, but it’s that kind of place where you will see people in suits and dresses, especially on the weekends. Getting a reservation can be a little difficult for large groups, especially on the weekends as well. Along with Donatello and Gino’s, I consider this to be old Tampa. 3617 West Humphrey Street, Tampa, FL 33614
Donatello Italian Restaurant: Legendary in South Tampa. This is a place where the greeter at the door will kiss a woman on her hand and they have roses and waiters in tuxedos. I haven’t dined at Donatello very often, but every time was excellent and the vibe is very old Italian-style. They are also quite notable for their perfect inspection reports. The few times I popped in for live music at their bar it was also excellent. 232 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609
Bella’s Italian Cafe: Certainly one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Tampa, Bella’s makes their pastas from scratch and it shows. You can customize your pasta to your liking. Their food is excellent and I have never had a bad meal there. Their long-running late-night happy hour always made it a fun spot to head to later in the evening as well and a good spot for hospitality folks. Their bar is also good and has a nice happy hour as well. We went more often when Tampa was starting to grow, but haven’t been in some time. Everytime I go back it feels like home though. 1413 South Howard Ave #100, Tampa, FL 33606
Bernini Ybor: Long-running Italian spot in Historic Ybor City. Bernini has good food and I’m not sure why I don’t go more often, but their 50% off deals from 4-7 are legendary and so are their martini happy hours. The staff was always so pleasant on my visits and I love dining al fresco on 7th before the town really gets busy. 1702 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605
Allegria Italiana: This spot is reserved for when I’m home in Brandon or when I want an old-school style dine. The tables have white cloths over them without being stuffy. Their Fettuccine Alfredo and their Linguine Carbonara are both delicious and their lunch specials are a great deal. I have even ordered delivery from here via a third party service and loved it just as much as dining in. Their Tiramisu is also stellar. I highly recommend Allgeria Italiana if you find yourself in Brandon for any reason or live there. 518 Oakfield Drive, Brandon, FL 33511
Oggi Italian: I wanted Italian for brunch one day and realized that most Italian restaurants are open on Sundays in the morning, with the exception of Oggi on Davis Island. This quaint restaurant has a very European vibe to it and they have great prices on pasta, pizza, and even a little alleyway as an optional dining spot. 236 East Davis Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33606