A few months back, one of our That’s So Tampa writers, Andrew, posted about Florish; Tampa’s first vegan pizzeria. At the time, the spot was no more than an idea and an unknown opening date. Regardless, thousands of you responded to the concept with overwhelming enthusiasm.
Sharing that same affinity for vegan food, I was super stoked when owners, Jill and Keith Sedita, announced Florish’s March 1st opening date. I was even more excited, though, when they invited me in for an early taste test. Last night, I took them up on that offer.
Visiting Tampa’s newest comfort kitchen
The clouds were descending in a soft, cotton candy sunset when I first pulled into Florish’s lot. Against the growing darkness, the light of the vibrant green restaurant was stark and inviting. The scent of basil and rising dough was equally noticeable—even from the sidewalk.
As I pulled open the door, that tantalizing smell grew stronger. Though pizzerias have a reputation for mouthwatering sensory appeal, this was different. From an early glance at the menu, I could only assume it was coming from their garlic pesto, or perhaps the “original” tomato sauce that filled the ladles of the restaurant’s young chefs.
Minutes later, I sat down with Jill who quickly revealed that the source of the scent was she and her husband, Keith’s, secret recipe pizza dough.
“We came up with our pizza dough recipe in a test kitchen with a professional chef,” she explained. “We wanted the dough itself to have flavor, so we took his traditional recipe and added wheat flour, molasses and spices.”
Behind the open counter, two chefs pulled that fluffy dough into long ovals. Once shaped and topped, the raw pizzas were sent into a rapid-cooking conveyor oven. Minutes later, they emerged with golden brown crust, melty plant-based cheese, and that wonderful, spice-filled fragrance.
A family-centered journey to health
The mouthwatering plates being pulled from the heat only distracted me for a moment. Though the food was enticing, Jill and Keith’s journey to veganism—and, ultimately, the restaurant industry—was equally attention-grabbing.
“It was actually our boys that convinced us to go vegan,” Jill said. “It was about six or seven years ago, so they must have been twelve and nine, when they first approached me. They were always very interested in the environment and the treatment of animals.”
Today, the Selina’s sons are 15 and 18, and are both, in their parents words, “budding environmentalists.” In fact, the two even run an environmental initiative, Green Gasparilla, to bring awareness to the pollutive effects of the annual Gasparilla Boat Parade so that it can be enjoyed in a more eco-friendly and responsible way. They remain strong advocates for plant-based eating.
Once the rest of the family transitioned to veganism, they began to notice differences in their bodies and health. After only a year on the diet, Keith lost over twenty pounds, while Jill noted how good she felt. Wanting to extend that positive wellness to the community, the pair considered opening a restaurant. Two years ago, when the pandemic awarded them some extra downtime, they were finally able to start that journey.
Tasting warm and “cheesy” secret recipes
After my heart had been warmed by Jill’s story of family and compassion, I was ready to warm my stomach with some delicious food. Luckily for me, the team spared no time bringing me some of their best. The dishes extended farther than just pizza (to include bowls and desserts), and each reflected the restaurant’s values of wellness and care.
First up—of course—was the pizza. The specific pie I tried was the “Jersey Girl,” which featured mozzarella, house-made sausage crumbles, bell peppers, mushrooms, and almond parmesan. The secret-recipe dough was just as flavorful as promised, and gained a perfect crisp in the oven. The real winner of each slice, though, was the crumbled sausage. I’m not sure how they make that stuff, but the savory saltiness and hearty texture it added to the pie was great.
Next, I tasted two of Florish’s wholesome, power-packed bowls. The first was the “Fab Farro,” which played on classic Italian flavors by including impossible meatballs, house-made cashew ricotta, pesto, and more, all over triple-herb farro. The second was the “Planty Good and Hot,” which layered spicy tempeh, toasted pepitas, and “everything potatoes” over a quinoa and kale blend. Though both were tasty, I’d definitely recommend the “Fab Farro.” The meatballs were tender and juicy, and the dairy-free ricotta was just as “cheesy” as its dairy-full counterpart.
After I finished my three savory courses, I was presented with dessert (though I also ordered another pizza, because the “Jersey Girl” was that good and sometimes I have trouble moving on). When it comes to sweets, Florish has two options; a dark chocolate coconut cookie and a chocolate chunk peanut butter pretzel cookie. I tried the second, which—if you get it fresh from the oven—is pretty much a hot, pretzel-stuffed Reese’s.
Nourishing, plant-based power food
Starting March 1st, Florish will officially be open to the public for daily lunch. If you’re vegan or health-conscious, you should definitely plan a visit. But, even if you’re not, you should still go and treat yourself to some plant-based power food.
After all, the restaurant cleverly reminds us, “You have to nourish to Florish.”
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