- Stanley Tucci
Food in Tampa is in a constant state of refinement and reinvention. Sometimes looking back and far away is the best way to bring home traditions, talent, and true Tampa Sicilian tastes. We had the absolute honor to dine recently at Richard Gonzmart's and the Columbia Restaurant team's newest gastronomic success in the heart of Tampa called Casa Santo Stefano. (Have I mentioned my husband's middle name happens to be Santo!!) This new gem has exploded onto the food scene in several delightful ways. You may recall a post I wrote about one of his other incredible local restaurants called Ulele, besure to check out that post as well. During our lunch, we noted serious business lunches, a few leisurely ladies who lunch, and a relaxed family gathered around a special lazy susan table sharing appetizers and family sized portions of pasta. Cocktail hour starts revving up as the sun goes down on the rooftop bar named Santo's Drinkeria. What a special place to meet with famiglia & amici!
The restaurant makes its home in a former 1925 Ferlita Macaroni factory appropriately. What a way to pay homage to pasta which is hand made daily here. As you enjoy your meal you will observe the hand-painted tabletops and plates that go along with the open kitchen with gorgeous backsplashes and volcanic rock counters signed by the Sicilian family who custom made this practical artwork. Clink your glasses beneath an original signed Picasso. Richard's photographs along with many local decendents line the walls of this cherished and historic building. This wonderful photograph was taken by Richard while on a research trip to Santo Stefano called "The Watchmen".
There is an old saying, "Ripe bananas are the mark of a good produce section. A good produce section is the mark of a superior store. A superior grocery store is the mark of a good man,". Well Richard, your fresh garden outside has a good bounty, your kitchen is of superior quality, and all of Tampa knows Casa Santo Stefano is the mark of a good man with a heart devoted to preserving history and recreating your legacy over and over with your restaurants! Although these walls speak volumes as it is, if they could give the customers some of Nana's advice, they would certainly be saying, "Mangia! Mangia!"