Wesley Chapel definitely had one of its biggest years ever, in terms of restaurant openings, in 2020, so my list this year looks very different than last year. Here are short write-ups about my 25 favorite restaurants (new and existing) in Wesley Chapel for 2020, starting with No. 25 and counting down to No. 11. Tomorrow, we’ll show you the Top 10.
Here we go. Enjoy! — GN
25 — 900 DEGREES WOODFIRED PIZZA
Shops at Wiregrass
28152 Paseo Dr., St. 195
The next three restaurants, which tied for my 25th place this year, are all among my favorite NY-style pizza places, but all three also feature one or more of my favorite local pasta dishes, so they all deserved to be on this list. I personally prefer the NY-style to the woodfired Neapolitan-style pizza at 900º Woodfired Pizza, but my favorite dish is definitely the freshly-made penne pesto Genovese shown above, although I usually have owner Steve Falabella’s happy crew add grilled chicken and even some sautéed spinach to mine. The penne alla vodka and lasagne are awesome, too!
25 — FRATELLI’S PIZZA & CAFE
5327 Village Market
Even though I didn’t remember the name of their long-time, open-24-hours-a-day original Fratelli’s in the Hunts Point Market in The Bronx, NY, I am so happy that the Fratelli brothers decided to sell that location and bring their tasty NY-style pizza and pastas to Wesley Chapel. I was even happier when I first sampled the truly authentic penne with broccoli rabe, chicken and sausage shown above. You won’t find better broccoli rabe in the Tampa Bay area and the baked pastas and hot subs also rock! Fratelli’s also features Jannah’s favorite garlicky Grandma’s pizza in Wesley Chapel.
25 — AMICI PIZZA
26602 Wesley Chapel Blvd.
For anyone who loves authentic NY-style pizza, the new location of Amici’s on Wesley Chapel Blvd (aka S.R. 54) in Lutz has brought me ever closer to the Mannino brothers and their delicious pizza. But, like 900º Woodfired, Amici’s makes my list of Wesley Chapel favorites in part because it features a very authentic NY-style version of another one of my favorite pasta dishes — the linguine with white clams shown above. I can’t really call it a sauce, because it’s correctly more of a light broth, but it is loaded with whole clams and garlic and is a definite must-try! And, although I’ve never been a big fan of the garlic knots at most pizza places, try Amici’s garlic bread with marinara dip. Yum!
24 — RICE-N-BEANS
27405 Wesley Chapel Blvd.
Although I never really thought of Puerto Rican food as one of my favorite Latin cuisines until I tried the original location of Rice-n-Beans on S.R. 54 in Lutz, the beautiful new location (in the former Cody’s Roadhouse building) has kept me a fan of Wesley Chapel’s Rice-n-Beans, especially the amazing fried chicken chicharrons shown above. I’m also a fan of the roast pork mofongo, the grilled pork chops and chicken breast in garlic sauce. And yes, the rice and (I prefer the red) beans served with every meal are also delicious and authentic. Rice-n-Beans also has great drink prices at its spacious, full-liquor bar and had added salsa dancing and other entertainment pre-pandemic.
23 — THE GARDEN GRILLE
at the Hilton Garden Inn
26640 Silver Maple Pkwy.
Please stop me if you’ve heard me say this before, but when the Hilton Garden Inn Tampa-Wesley Chapel first opened in late 2018, it hosted a Grand Opening event, where the food served in the hotel’s Garden Grille restaurant was so good, I thought it must’ve come from an outside caterer. Wrong! The food at the Garden Grille is excellent, from delicious crispy wings, to tasty meatballs, perfect Pan Asian ribs and even a great New York strip steak (photo). I wish the Garden Grille was open for lunch, but it’s also great for “event” food like a unique French toast casserole for brunch and more. The bar is never crowded and has great drink prices.
22 — LITTLE ITALY’S
24436 S.R. 54, Lutz
Owners Jessica and Carl Meyers’ seemingly hard-to-find location on S.R. 54, a mile or so west of the Tampa Premium Outlets, has been bringing in hungry fans from the moment it opened and the addition of beer, wine and homemade sangria definitely hasn’t hurt business, either. Although I’ve always said that the menu could be more diverse, if you’re looking for huge portions of lasagne, chicken or veal parmigiana (photo, usually offered as a special only) and, especially the calzones, this is your place. I can’t partake of the “lobsta” ravioli, but I’ve seen and heard many rave about it.
21 — ARROY THAI
27427 Wesley Chapel Blvd.
Pinebrook at The Grove plaza
For anyone looking for delicious (which is what “Arroy” means) Thai food in Wesley Chapel, Arroy Thai is fast, casual and excellent. I enjoy the lunch specials, which include steamed jasmine rice, fried wontons and a salad with peanut dressing for only $8.95-$13.95, depending upon the protein you choose — which for me is usually chicken or pork, with garlic and black pepper sauce, although I also love the spicy basil and fresh ginger sauces, too. I also love the crispy duck dinner entrées, although I’m not big on curry sauces or noodle dishes.
20 — GLORY DAYS GRILL
28812 S.R. 54
I’ve said before that when Glory Days Grill first opened in New Tampa a few years ago, replacing the popular Lee Roy Selmon’s, I wasn’t a big fan. However, when Jannah and I first tried the new Glory Days on S.R. 54, less than a mile from my office, we immediately recognized that the menu had been greatly upgraded. Even though they did away with our favorite appetizer (zucchini fries), the burgers (try the proprietary blend) are excellent and I also enjoy the comeback chicken (with sundried tomatoes and feta cheese in lemon-butter sauce), fried chicken & waffles, the Boston clam “chowda,” the 1988 center-cut sirloin and the house-marinated pork chops shown above.
19 — FORD’S GARAGE
25226 Sierra Center Blvd., Lutz
Another mini-chain (with 14 of its 16 locations here in Florida) with really good food, Ford’s Garage features a big variety of prime black angus burgers, plus excellent sesame-crusted ahi tuna and a giant funnel tower of jumbo piston onion rings and six different kinds of mac n’ cheese. Jannah and I love the grilled chicken Henry entrée (shown above) and the chop salad and the 10-oz. NY strip steak entrée is tasty, too. With great drink specials and lots of indoor and outdoor bar seating, Ford’s Garage lets you keep your social distance, too.
18 — TOP SHELF SPORTS LOUNGE
at AdventHealth Center Ice
3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd.
Based on my experience at other ice rinks when both of my sons played ice hockey, I had no real expectations for good food when what is now called AdventHealth Center Ice first opened. Boy, was I wrong. Not only does Top Shelf have some of the best wings, burgers (photo) and bar food around, it also serves delicious mixed veggies as a side and the craft beers from owner Keelan Cottle’s own 81Bay Brewing are definitely popular with the hockey moms and dads. Top Shelf also is mine and Jannah’s favorite place to watch Lightning games.
17 — THE HUNGRY GREEK
2653 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Now that there are so many new restaurants in Wesley Chapel, it’s easy to forget about The Hungry Greek, but not if you enjoy great Greek specialties (as I do) in a fast-casual environment that never disappoints for quality, service or price. I’ve yet to try the recent addition of Greek bowls (with brown rice, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, feta, olives, pepperoncini and tzatziki sauce, with your choice of chicken, gyro meat, shrimp, falafel or salmon), but the spanakopita and the gyro dinner shown above (I get it without the onions) are always great, especially with a Mythos or other Greek beer.
16 — BONEFISH GRILL
25264 Sierra Center Blvd., Lutz
When you’re looking for the best seared tuna sashimi appetizer (photo) in Wesley Chapel, there’s no doubt in my mind that the recently relocated Bonefish Grill is still near the top of the list. The thick slices are always fresh, always well-seared but still rare and covered in black and white sesame seeds. Bonefish also features excellent fresh fish, but not as good for my money as Grillsmith’s. The Outback-quality steaks are an added bonus. I can’t eat the bang-bang shrimp because of my accursed shellfish allergy (but they will make it as bang-bang chicken for folks like me) and it’s still among the best you’ll find anywhere. Love the new bar area, too!
15 — UMU JAPANESE & THAI
2653 Bruce B Downs Blvd.
Many locals rave about the sushi at Umu Japanese & Thai and you can count me among them, but when you take a deeper dive into the menu (as I finally have), you find out that there’s even more to love than the huge selection of sushi rolls and the best variety of white meat fish nigiri (on rice) and sashimi in our area. I have enjoyed the crispy soy-marinated Kara-Age chicken appetizer (from Umu’s “Hot Tasting” starters menu), the deep-fried chicken and pork (Umu-ton) katsu, the “Wafu-style” Japanese NY strip steak and especially, the miso-marinated Chilean sea bass shown here.
14 — CHUCK LAGER AMERICA’S TAVERN
2001 Piazza Ave Suite 175
Shops at Wiregrass
While it didn’t take much for this third link in a new, small chain with a menu inspired by celebrity TV chef Fabio Viviani to surpass its predecessor (Primebar) in its space at the Shops at Wiregrass, there’s no doubt that Chuck Lager’s is a beautiful new restaurant with a great vibe and a unique menu that has caught on with locals, even though it opened deep into the pandemic. Jannah and I love the Fabio’s meatball sub and Cajun grouper taco handhelds, as well as the chicken parmesan, pork chop Milanese and Italian steak (photo) entrées and the sautéed baby broccolini is amazing. There also are great burgers, flatbreads and salads.
13 — PASTA DI GUY
4839 Bruce B Downs Blvd
Owner/chef Guy Carmeli continues to add items to his still-smallish menu, but it’s hard to argue with the quality served up at the 2020 addition to our local dining scene. Our favorites at Pasta di Guy (see ad on pg. 42) are the made-from-scratch strozzapreti and spaghetti pastas, topped with any of the six different freshly made sauces (Alfredo, beef Bolognese, marinara, creamy pesto, vodka or aglio e olio (garlic and oil), and what may be the best house-cut zucchini noodles (above) in our area. Yes, it costs extra to add grilled chicken, house-made Italian sausage and veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, but it’s worth it. And, the recent addition of design-your-own, house-made pizzas is a step in the right direction, too.
12 — NOBLE CRUST
28330 Paseo Dr.
Shops at Wiregrass
There is no doubt in my mind that with a little larger and more diverse menu, Noble Crust also would finish higher on my list of Wesley Chapel favorites. I love the house-made gnocchi and unique beef and pork meatball appetizers (there’s even Impossible meatballs available now), as well as the double cut pork chop, bistro steak and chicken fried chicken parm (above) entrées. Recently added items include crispy Brussels sprouts, a gorgonzola filet and eggplant parm. And, people rave about Noble Crust’s oven-baked pizzas, although we usually go for the entrées. The bar area may be a little tight, but it offers an amazing selection of ultra-premium liquor and a great, fun vibe.
11 — OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE
5710 Oakley Blvd.
The steak quality at the Outback Steakhouse has never been in question. The Victoria’s filet is very similar in quality and price to Longhorn’s Flo’s filet and the bone-in New York strip shown here is, as the menu claims, full of flavor. In addition to the great variety of steaks, Outback also is famous for its shrimp on the barbie and bloomin’ onion appetizers, Alice Springs chicken and surf & turf options that I sadly can’t enjoy, but rewards members (like me!) get $20 off at Outback or Bonefish or $40 off at Fleming’s every third visit. Jannah and I still won’t wait for a table, but whether we sit at the bar or use the easy takeout system, we’re rarely disappointed.