With two locations in Tampa, the “honest Italian” restaurant Oronzo is taking old family recipes and serving them up fast in a contemporary environment.
If true Italian food is supposed to be simple, then perhaps the dining experience should be, too. At least, that’s what Oronzo is trying out with its fast-casual Italian concept.
The new (ish) restaurant has two locations in the area, one that opened in New Tampa in mid-2020, and another that just recently started serving up fresh Italian in Midtown. We finally got a chance to try them out at the new location in Midtown, and the experience did not disappoint.
Oronzo features what it calls “honest Italian,” focusing on fresh ingredients and hand-prepared dishes served up quickly. True to its mission, the handmade pasta and sauces steal the show, and we particularly loved the spicy arrabbiata sauce as part of an Italian burrito (more on that delightful concoction soon).
Named for Oronzo Bavaro, the grandfather of co-founder Dan Bavaro and an Italian immigrant who brought his family recipes to the States in 1939, the restaurant pays homage to its roots by focusing on a simple, casual and fresh menu, “the way Oronzo would have it.” Traditional Italian food, as the restaurant points out, is unfussy and unpretentious, focusing on fewer and higher-quality ingredients, allowing the fresh flavors to truly shine.
Order at the counter from Oronzo’s expansive menu
The menu offers a wide variety of scratch-made soups, salads, sides and bowls, as well as hefty portions of handmade pastas, pizza made with fresh dough (New Tampa location only), desserts and the Frankenstein-esque creations they call Italian burritos. Take a number after your order and either grab a seat or hang out and watch as the kitchen prepares your food.
Like any good Italian café, drink options include sparkling water, wine, Peroni beer on tap, and espressos and Americanos. And after one of those unwieldy pasta-filled burritos, a little pick-me-up is necessary if your immediate plans don’t involve food-induced napping.
As for the pasta, Oronzo provides a few set dishes, but you can build your own any way you see fit from their four choices of pasta, half-dozen sauces and handful of protein options. With the pasta and sauces made fresh daily, the satisfying plates of noodles live up to the promise of simple Italian done right.
The massive Italian burritos are worth their weight
But let’s get to the main event – Oronzo’s Italian burritos. True to form, the idea is simple, though still ingenious. Oronzo takes four classic knife-and-fork Italian dishes and erases the need for cutlery by wrapping them up in a warm, freshly made bread akin to a thin, brick oven pizza crust. The massive burritos are handheld and portable, to be sure, but you’ll still want a plate (and plenty of napkins) if you want to avoid making a spaghetti-fueled mess.
The options include a chicken parmesan, meatball parm, grilled chicken Caesar and caprese. We tried out the meatball parm which comes packed with homemade spaghetti, meatballs, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and in our case, the spicy arrabiata sauce, though other sauces are available. The result is a wildly delicious and incredibly filling experience that somehow combines the nostalgia and taste of mom’s spaghetti with the gluttonous delight of a late-night Taco Bell run.
Wash it down with pint of Peroni and you’ll be napping like it’s Thanksgiving afternoon.
Any attempts at “saving room” for dessert are bound to be fruitless, but it’s still worth stuffing yourself a little more to try some of the fresh-baked goodies. The tiramisu is decadence on a plate, and don’t miss the Italian cookies, macarons, cannoli crisps and Nutella-covered flatbreads.
Oronzo’s New Tampa location can be found at 18027 Highwoods Preserve Parkway, while the Midtown location is next to the park in the center of the development at 1120 Grammercy Lane. Both locations are open for lunch and dinner beginning at 11 am daily.
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