It seems that people, unlike Gaul, are divided into two groups when it comes to the red sauce on pasta at local establishments. Our very close friends choose a sweeter version of the ubiquitous red sauce; Joan and I prefer one that is less sweet. The Tampa area has fine examples of both varieties and, in fact, the four of us visited a relatively new establishment near the intersection of Countryway and Race Track Road a while ago and I discovered a good neighborhood Italian restaurant, San’s Pizzeria, located at 13048 Race Track Road, just north of the Westchase area. Here the sauce falls in the middle range and should satisfy advocates of both sweet and less sweet. This restaurant serves up fine pizza as well as a variety of satisfying and very large portions of food. Joan and her friend Ann ordered Eggplant Parmigiana ($10.50); Mal and I picked the Chicken Parmigiana ($13.50). None of us could finish the lightly breaded and fried serving and Joan and I brought enough home to satisfy a very hungry granddaughter who has an appetite like a bear (but a waistline that one can only envy). The main dish was served with a substantial side of pasta with marinara sauce. The sauce was slightly on the sweet side but came in the middle range. Along with the main course, the restaurant served an average side salad but my blue-cheese dressing was thick, hearty and loaded with big chunks of cheese.
Both chicken and eggplant were breaded and then fried, but, as was not the case with Formaggio’s in Lithia, which we visited recently, the breading was light and thin and did not overpower the dish.
From what we observed in the restaurant, most patrons came for the pizza which appeared to be just like the pizza we had enjoyed up north in the New York-New Jersey area. We made plans to return to partake of the pizza. And on a subsequent visit, we ordered pizza.
The first thing one notices about this restaurant is its evident popularity; on the weekday evening when we returned, the place was packed! It is a very family friendly place and nearly every booth and table was occupied.
The pizza was “New York-New Jersey” style, which is a thin crust affair. We prefer a well-done crust and it arrived exactly as ordered. The basic 14” size is $9.95 and the large 18” version comes in at $12.25. Toppings, which are extensive, are $1.40 and $1.80, each, respectively. There are a number of special, premium kinds with selected stuff on top. We went for a large size with pepperoni, onions, and green pepper. We sprinkled garlic powder, hot pepper flakes and oregano and the offering was not only exceptionally good but ample enough for another meal at home the next night.
On another and more recent visit, our friend Ann ordered the Penne ala Vodka which she declared a total success and her husband and I choose the spaghetti with meatballs and sausage. The pasta was served with a tasty marinara sauce. Personally, I would have preferred a heartier Bolognese sauce, with a meat base and a minimum of tomato but why quibble? Joan ordered the Manicotti, shells stuffed with cheese. Again, portions were more than ample to provide meals for the following day.
In case there is any doubt, I love pasta! Give me a bowl of pasta, slather on the red sauce, add meatballs and sausage and I’m in heaven. Throw in a glass of Chianti, not the extra smooth kind but one with a rustic edge, and I’m yours forever. Tampa has a number of Italian restaurants which are so good that my mouth starts to salivate at the very thought. These are not the more expensive fancy-shmancy places, they just provide a large amount of very good food, at a reasonable price. San’s is such a place.