Here’s Gary’s favorite restaurants in New Tampa. If you missed Gary’s New Tampa favorites from 11-25, CLICK RIGHT HERE.

Here’s the Top 10!

17050 Palm Pointe Dr., Tampa Palms
(813) 978-0388

Even though it hasn’t always been my #1 favorite restaurant in New Tampa, there’s no doubt that Stonewood Grill & Tavern in Tampa Palms has been near the top of my list since the day it opened two decades ago. And yes, it did win with our readers again in 2020, too.

Stonewood continues to serve delicious and popular ahi tuna, crab cake and bruschetta appetizers, as well as the best (and best variety of) steaks (like the 9-oz. filet mignon pictured above) in New Tampa and it also offers a daily “market catch” (like the fresh grouper piccata, with sauce on the side and perfectly sautéed spinach) and other specials (like excellent lollipop rib lamb chops…mmm) that have kept it near the top of my list every year.

GM Matt Passardi — who previously ran the Grillsmith in the Shops at Wiregrass — and his staff also are back to keeping their guests happy at New Tampa’s most-happening bar scene, but of course, Covid-19 had shut down the bar and Stonewood’s elegant dine-in experience for several months.

Passardi told me that the posting of the picture of the ribeye steak with last issue’s Reader Survey results definitely helped boost his ribeye sales since then.  

8644 Hunter’s Village Rd.
The Village at Hunter’s Lake
(813) 475-4857

The fact that Via Italia had only been open a short time before our annual survey ended but still finished 9th in New Tampa with our readers is an indication of what a great place it is. Owner/chef Roberto Maganuco’s place has an amazing variety of different styles of pizza (Neopolitan, Roman and others), but I love it even more for its beautiful, full-liquor bar and amazing pasta selection — including two types of pesto — Genovese and Siciliano — as well as linguine with clams, cavatelli with broccoli & sausage (photo above) and more. If Roberto adds fresh fish and maybe a steak special next year, Via Italia could move up to #1. 

16029 Tampa Palms Blvd.
City Plaza at Tampa Palms
(813) 252-3004

The Fat Rabbit in Tampa Palms is another place with outstanding food (like the best wings in New Tampa, and great burgers and tater tots) and beverages that could finish even higher on my list with even more menu options. Adding a fresh catch — fish (photo), or sometimes shellfish — option in 2019 definitely moved it up and the addition of a petite (5-oz.) “Fat Filet” has given it even more appeal for me. And of course, The Fat Rabbit also has a large and attractive, premium liquor bar that would make it a great option for live music or karaoke (or both), in addition to its regular trivia nights, but maybe that’s just my opinion. 

19056 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
New Tampa Center
(813) 304-0205

When Lima opened basically a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit in the former location of El Pescador in the Publix-anchored New Tampa Center plaza, I was excited, because I already loved Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken (photo) and fresh fish ceviche. And, owner Oscar Escudero’s delightfully different (at least from any place in our area) take on the cuisine widely considered as the best of the Latin countries is absolutely delicious and my second favorite new place (to Via Italia) to open in New Tampa in 2020.  Try the baked scallops (conchita parmesano) appetizer and the Peruvian/Chinese-style fried rice, too! 

17004 Palm Pointe Dr.
Shoppes at The Pointe
(813) 975-1222

The Ciccio Restaurant Group has created one of the most successful slates of local eateries in the entire Tampa Bay area, with concepts like Green Lemon, Daily Eats, Ciccio Water and Better Byrd (look them all up), but Cali (nee Ciccio Cali) has been the only one in our area since Lodge closed in the former Ciccio & Tony’s location in City Plaza. But, I have always credited Cali as the first to bring “bowl culture” to New Tampa. The menu has been simplified, with multiple “bowl style” options (try the “Lean & Clean” with tuna), plus crisp-crust, hand-tossed pizzas and famous wrap sandwiches (photo; the Cali Club is my fave).

6431 E. County Line Rd.
(813) 803-3903

If you’re looking for amazing fish, owner/chef Ramses Garcia serves our area’s flakiest, tastiest merluza (like snapper) a la Rusa, as well as award-winning Cuban sandwiches (photo) and traditional specialties like ropa vieja (shredded beef), picadillo (ground beef) and arroz con pollo (chicken & yellow rice). I really love the steaks  — palomillo (in mojo sauce, with onions), churrasco (skirt steak with chimichurri sauce) and sautéed vaca frita (crispy beef). But, the lechon asado (tender roasted pork), masitas (pork chunks) and special pork chops are my faves. Try Ramses’ wife Ana’s award-winning tres leches dessert, too! 

17515 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
(813) 978-1225

Liang’s is now the undisputed champ of our local Chinese places with both yours truly and our readers, now that Fushia in Tampa Palms has closed. There’s no doubt Liang’s is an upscale Chinese (with other Asian options) restaurant with great food. My favorite entrées are the steamed (with mixed veggies) or Liang’s crispy fish, the sizzling Shanghai steak and Sichuan chicken, but I love Liang’s for its New York-style BBQ spareribs (photo) and crispy egg rolls. The item Jannah and I take out most often, though, are Liang’s awesome sautéed string beans, but I order them in a spicy chili sauce.

18027 Highwoods Preserve Pkwy.
The Walk at Highwoods Preserve
(813) 730-0100

What happens when you take a fast-casual concept like Chipotle but instead of Mexican fare, you offer homemade Italian dishes with freshly made pasta, unique wrap sandwiches, pizza-style flatbreads and more?  In the case of Oronzo, the answer is “something delicious.” Owner Dan Bavaro, who also has Bavaro’s Pizza locations in downtown Tampa and downtown St. Pete, offers house-made spaghetti (with delicious meatballs, above), sausage, veggies and a variety of sauces, plus beer, wine and yummy desserts.  

14947 Bruce B Downs Blvd.
Oak Ramble Plaza
(813) 971-1787

Although I spend a lot less time these days south of Tampa Palms on BBD, it never takes much to convince Jannah to go to (or take out from) Acropolis. Part of another successful Bay-area mini-chain, Acropolis features authentic saganaki cheese flambé and artichoke & spinach dip appetizers, a tender shish (filet) and chicken kabob duo, savory loin lamb chops and our favorite entrée — the thin, crisp, lightly fried Athenian fish pictured above. And, even though Acropolis doesn’t have a true Greek vinaigrette-style dressing, the Greek salad also is outstanding.

at Heritage Isles Golf Club
10630 Plantation Bay Dr.
(813) 994-3445

Former Wharton High culinary teachers Eddie and Lourdes Bujarski have created an impressive restaurant inside the Heritage Isles GC clubhouse. As I said last year, with a more extensive menu, Bayscape would finish even higher on my list, because it’s hard to beat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are great wings, burgers, salads and sandwiches, but my faves are the dinner “signatures” like country fried chicken and slow-roasted, top round roast beef with brown gravy above. It’s been a while since Jannah and I stopped in for dinner and Friday night karaoke, but we’ll definitely be back.  

If you missed Gary’s New Tampa favorites from 11-25, CLICK RIGHT HERE.

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