Tampa Has a New Standard When it Comes to Italian: Olivia’s

Our evening started with my sister getting deferred from her top college. We had just sat down, the waiter had not even arrived with the waters yet when my sister received the email. But did that ruin the evening? No. That is how good Olivia’s is. If you told me to pick my favorite part of the meal, I couldn’t. The food, the service, the atmosphere. Everything was exceptional. We started off with one of their appetizers, the “Coccoli Fritto”. Which includes Coccoli (small bites of dough fried in olive oil) served with prosciutto, fig jam, stracchino (a soft and creamy cheese), and truffle honey. The proper way to eat this is to open up the Coccoli and fill it with the accompaniments so you get a combination of salty and sweet flavors in your mouth and a mix of crispy and creamy textures. But everyone I know eats this differently. Quite frankly, I could eat the fig jam by the spoonful, and that is saying something because I am not a fig jam lover. As delicious as the Coccoli Fritto is, there isn’t a single appetizer on the menu that you could go wrong with. I have also had the Grape Bruschetta, which takes your typical bruschetta to a whole new level. Something about how the flavors of the grapes combined with the whipped ricotta and spicy honey makes me never want to eat any other bruschetta again. Personally, I think chef, Chris Ponte, deserves a medal for this one. Throughout this whole meal, I kept telling myself, nothing is going to be as good as what I just ate. But as each dish arrived at our table, my mind continued to be blown. Next, came the soppressata pizza or shall I say one of the best pizzas I have ever had. The thin, flakey crust is topped with dollops of red sauce, globs of mozzarella, thick slices of soppressata salami, roasted garlic, and best part of all, the generous drizzle of hot honey. The toppings balance each other out perfectly, making sure that no flavor is lacking from this pizza. I’ll admit, Chef Ponte knows pizza, and he knows how to do it right. I would have been satisfied just eating the pizza, but of course, I couldn’t go to Olivia’s without getting pasta, after all, you can watch them make it from scratch. The Mini Rigatoni is to die for. Seriously, this 24-hour bolognese sauce is the flagship product at Olivia’s. It’s meaty and creamy, and the spoonful of herb ricotta ties all of the flavors together perfectly. I wasn’t planning on ordering anything more until I saw the Waffle Bombolini appear at the table next to us. I had to order it. I will be honest, the picture I included does not do this dessert justice. I can’t even compare these waffles to any waffles I have had before. Clearly, they were far from the eggo ones that I pop in the toaster. It was almost as if a doughnut and waffle had been combined. Then to top everything off, it is served with brown butter caramel and chocolate ricotta creme. All I can say is, there’s a reason this dessert is on most tables here. There is only one thing I don’t like about this restaurant. How hard it is to book a reservation. I hadn’t even received the bill before I was looking at when I could come back. Dine here once, and you’ll be in the same loop as me, trying to find the soonest date you can come back. It’s inevitable. Olivia is just the type of restaurant nobody can get enough of. At Least I sure can’t.