Anyone who has been reading my dining reviews for any number of years surely knows that I have always been and always will be a New York-style pizza guy. Therefore, it’s been hard for places like Full Circle Chicago Pizza in the Pebble Creek Collection to ever really rank among my favorite pizza places in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. Whether deep-dish or thin-crust, I am happy to eat Chicago-style pizza, but it just will never be the same for me as NY-style ‘za.
Even so, new Full Circle owners Julia and Freddy Nova took over a few months ago, and they called me to say I needed to try the place again, and not just for the pizza, but also for the new Italian specialties Freddy has been adding to Full Circle’s already tasty menu.
And, after several amazing meals at the new Full Circle, I do believe Freddy and Julia are on to something delicious.
Julia is half-Italian, but while Freddy’s family is originally from Guatemala, he has not only cooked at three well-known country clubs for 20 years in New Jersey (including the renowned, historic Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, which has hosted the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior PGA Championship), he and Julia also owned and operated a successful “Jersey-style” pizza place known as Little Italy in Paramus for five years before they relocated to Tampa and found Full Circle for sale.
Freddy’s extensive experience shows in everything he creates at Full Circle. Jannah and I agree that his chicken parmigiana is the best we’ve had in New Tampa — and, although he hasn’t yet added veal to the menu, folks I’ve met inside since the Novas took over have raved about the eggplant parm. And, my side of penne in marinara sauce came out al denté without me having to order it that way. Atza nice!
My new pal Freddy also turned a simple chicken and broccoli pasta dish into a perfectly garlicky (is that a word?) masterpiece, and he’ll even add sautéed spinach or broccoli to it upon request (as I did). I’m not usually as big on chicken Francaise, but Julia told me it’s her favorite, so I tried it on my most recent visit and you can take the egg-dipped coating and lemon without either being overpowering.
Folks from the Windy City love their Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches (top right photo on next page), and Freddy kept the tasty au just the bread is basically soaking in from the original Full Circle. People also rave about his Philly cheese steaks; I enjoyed his spicy version.
However, I still prefer an oven-baked parmigiana sub, with gooey mozzarella, meatballs, chicken or Italian sausage, and Freddy’s baked subs have the right “crackle” (the roof of your mouth should be both cut and burnt when the bread and sauce are perfect…and these are) and are all lip-smacking-tasty.
I also have enjoyed the fried ravioli appetizer and the garlic knots and plan to try the jumbo wings and even the pierogies, although I try not to fill up too much on appetizers when the main event is always so great.
OK, What About That Pizza?
Remember what I said earlier about me and Chicago-style pizza? Freddy says he hasn’t changed Full Circle’s already immensely popular thin-crust or deep-dish Chicago-style pizza much — although it does seem to me that he has increased the ratio of sauce to cheese on the deep dish, which makes it possible to eat with your hands, instead of a knife and fork (as I’ve always had to do with most other Chicago-style deep-dish). And yes, Full Circle offers slices of thin-crust pizza for lunch and has deep-dish pies available every day for lunch and dinner.
However, I’m proud to say that Freddy has even found a loophole in my anti-Chicago-thin-crust bias. He has introduced a margherita pizza — with a zesty sauce, fresh mozzarella and even fresher basil — that is unlike any other I’ve tasted before. And, here’s the thing, when I last lived in New York, the whole coal- or wood-fired brick oven pizza craze hadn’t really yet taken off, so I had no preconceived notions of what a cracker-thin “Neapolitan”-style pizza should taste like when I moved to Florida. And, although I have always liked the Neapolitan-style pizza in our area, it’s never been as high on my list of favorites as most NY-style pizza.
Until now. Freddie’s margherita pizza has a delicious garlic-infused sauce that is similar to what many places use for their “Grandma’s pizza.” The mozzarella is fresh and the basil adds just that hint of sweetness.
But, Freddy’s margherita pizza (right) also has a much crisper crust than most Neapolitan-style pizza, which usually comes out with a charred bottom, but not crispy. Bottom line? If you hate it, I’ll buy your leftovers.
In fact, I went so crazy for this pizza that I just had to share it with my new friends Beth, Wayne and Don (photo above) and all three also raved about it.
Best of all, with the coupons in our recent issues, you can save money on Full Circle’s ristorante-quality cuisine in clean, comfortable, casual surroundings with plenty of booth and table seating available. There’s also Yuengling on draught, Peroni and other beers in bottles and red and white wines by the glass or bottle. Full Circle also has a great family atmosphere and everything on the “Kids Corner” menu is either $4.99 or $5.99. You’ll also find an extensive catering menu with truly fair prices.
As for those coupons, on Tuesday and Wednesday (only!), you can get a large thin-crust pizza with one topping for only $9.99. And, although the coupons can’t be combined, you also can save $5 off any purchase of $30 or more, or $2 off any purchase of $15 or more.
Full Circle Pizza is hiring experienced servers and pizza makers now, especially since they will be slammed once this story breaks. Please stop in to fill out an application.
Full Circle Chicago Pizza (19651 BBD Blvd.) is open every day for lunch and dinner.
For more information, call (813) 994-3700, or visit FullCircleChicagoPizza.com.