I never met a ziti I didn’t love. I swoon over stuffed shells, go limp over lasagna and a blackened fettucine alfredo transforms my evening like a love potion #9. Lucky for those of us in Pinellas County, we have some mighty fine pasta purveyors. Put a fork in these Italian faves from St. Petersburg to Clearwater and beyond, and if you are still on a pasta perfect adventure sample Mario's in Madeira Beach and Il Ritorno downtown.
Beau n Mo's Italian Eating House St. Petersburg
You’ve heard about the steak and seafood, but their family pasta recipes rock. This adorable Kenwood bungalow serves up fresh pasta (gnocchi, linguine, penne) with your choice of sauce (Bolognese, marinara, fra diavolo, blue cheese, white wine) and then get it served with shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, Italian sausage or scallops to order. Personalized pasta, that’s amore!
Downtown’s Beach Drive sizzles with their regional dishes and innovative pasta. Nibble on Chianti braised olives or spicy fried chickpeas with Italian sea salt while deciding what to eat. The wine list is simply amazing, as are the craft cocktails. Don’t miss the lobster mac & cheese (North Atlantic lobster, asiago, cavatappi, black truffle bread crumbs), the pappardelle Bolognese, the fresh spaghetti with parmesan, pecorino and black pepper or the short rib ragu with fresh trofie pasta.
Campanella's Italian Restaurant
This Pinellas Park family favorite between Pete N’ Shorty’s and a Pho restaurant showcases the neighborhood diverse ethnic eats. Been coming here for years, and despite a change in owners (we loved Tony), the food is as good as Sunday dinner with Nonna. Go green with a shared sautéed escarole or broccoli Campanella, then ogle the specials, always pasta-licious. We like the ziti with vodka sauce, conch or shrimp with linguine and fradiavolo sauce or fettucine Contadina with chicken, Italian sausage and veal with mushrooms sautéed and tossed with a wine and creamy tomato sauce as well as the best stuffed shells and meatballs in town.
Cristino's Coal Oven Pizza
Known for its gourmet pizza and homemade gelato, this darling Clearwater bungalow and patio is a happy spot for homemade pasta, especially the ravioli.
Da Sesto Italiano
Another Pinellas Park treat with fresh pasta and delightful dishes hard to find outside of Italy, many of them heritage family favorites reimagined. We come for the Oliva Ascolana, from Mamma Angela’s hometown of Ascoli Piceno, devouring large green olives stuffed with four meats and parmesan cheese then breaded and fried Start with mussels in a lemon garlic wine sauce, tomato sauce or Annick’s Belgian Curry Wine Sauce or share Black truffle-infused Burrata cheese and “Bresaola” cured beef on a bed of arugula with balsamic glaze. There’s amazing carne, seafood and veal dishes, but we skip right to the ravioli stuffed so many ways: Filled with chicken and provolone cheese in a butter, sage white wine sauce, lobster or with Gorgonzola cheese and pears in a saffron white wine cream sauce. Another stand-out is the Pappardelle served in a white wine cream sauce, capers, mushrooms, ham, Italian Bucatini Amatriciana sausage and pancetta.
Gratzzi Italian Grille
Two beautiful dining rooms and a small bar are the heart of DTSP see and be seen crown, thanks to Chef/Owner Tony “Magnifico.” Start with the Baby whole artichokes stuffed with herbed mascarpone cheese, parmesan encrusted, Asiago cream sauce or bacon-wrapped shrimp. Seafood and meat are seared to perfection, and best of show for pasta include the Handmade gnocchi (filled with crispy pancetta, porcini mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, peas, chicken, with Asiago cheese sauce), lobster and truffle mac n’ cheese, handmade ricotta cavatelli, flambéed inside Padana parmesan wheel, with San Daniele prosciutto, tomatoes, basil, and vodka; and my go-to, Handmade ricotta pasta, our fresh pesto sauce, sun dried tomatoes, arugula, goat cheese and chicken. Meander through the exquisitely curated wine list or opt for a sassy craft cocktail.
This rustic Gulfport bungalow features a romantic alfresco garden in the back and lovely dining rooms reminiscent of Italy. Start with the Salmone di Capri (Smoked salmon with horseradish crème with lemon herb pesto and served with grilled Italian focaccia), the grilled, marinated octopus with smoked tomato sugo or the exquisite Antipasti Misto for two (imported Proscuitto di Parma, sopressata salami, mozzarella and tomatoes with pesto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, bruschetta, grilled and marinated veggies). The pasta and sauces are made from scratch, and we love the penne pasta tossed with spicy sundried tomatoes, farfalle pasta with roasted veggies, shrimp scampi, gnocchi gorgonzola and chicken piccata. A small boutique wine and craft beer list pairs perfectly. Ask about the specials, especially the Atlantic salmon with risotto.
Pizza Shack Italian Grille
This local Largo Italian strip mall restaurant is one of the best kept secrets in town, from the pizza to the pasta. Lots of specials (all you can eat spaghetti) but the start of the show is the seafood medley and seafood tortellini, as well as the veal piccatta and chicken parmesan, all from family recipes. The shrimp scampi, Bayou Cajum shrimp pasta and pasta carbonara (sautéed onions, bacon, ham in cream and fresh shredded parmesan)
Absolutely love owners Stefano and Evelyn, from the whimsical décor (she collects vintage tablecloths and crafts chandelier out vintage silver and has a way with cork art) to the la dolce vita culinary talents of Stefano and son. You can sit at a small bar in front, on the patio or in the cozy dining room, but during season, be sure to make reservations. Share spicy Italian Sausage and sweet peppers served with marinara or delicate pasta purses filled with pears and ricotta in a light cream sauce. Dive into the lobster ravioli or my fave, the shellfish, fresh fish and Linguine prepared with your choice of Scampi, lobster cream or Fra Diavolo sauce. Save room for the limoncello cake. This Indian Rocks treasure is now a dining highlight in Seminole near another favorite, 3 Olives. Small and interesting wine list, from Malbec to Montepulciano.
Toby's Original Little Italy Pizza
If you want some of the best authentic New Yorker Italian pizza, there's no place that does it better than Toby's Original Little Italy. Offering dine-in or take-out, this local establishment has been making delicious Italian food since 1972. They are open 7 days a week and showcase some of the best New York style pizza in St. Pete, as well as subs and salads.
Luigi (and his father Pompei before him) make you feel like you are in Italy at their castle, Elegant white linens, muted music and superior service matched only by the classy wine list makes this my favorite special occasion Italian restaurant, both for the food and attention to detail. Start with a glorious Caesar salad (anchovies, please), spicy Shrimp Alla Villa Gallace, Gnocchi Gorgonzola or Calamari Fritti. Their eggplant rollatini, manicotti, linguine alla vongole or pescatora and Filet Diane with pasta will knock your Italian loafers off.
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