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Eateries Dish Out Gourmet Pizzas Any Way You Like

Jan 18th 2011 8:00AM / by Nanette Wiser

We eat $20 billion worth of pizza in the United States, from traditional to trendy. Thanks to California's innovative stylings, pizzas now come topped with goat cheese, lamb sausage, smoked salmon, barbecue chicken, even BLT. Sometimes, you just want an old-fashioned pie with garlicky crust, sizzling cheese and a meatball, mushroom or pepperoni. No designer veggie or Hawaiian. Definitely no caviar. Anchovies on the side, New York style -- maybe. Your diet? Forgeddaboutit. In addition to these favorites, check out Eddie & Sam's and Pizza Pazza in downtown Tampa, and Campanella's and Paesano's in St. Petersburg.

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse: BJ's offers stunning WPA-style wall murals, a wall of flat-screen TVs drilling down on NASCAR or football, and some of the best boutique beers, especially the IPA and ales. Deep dish, thin crust, order three and share, especially the spinach artichoke, tangy barbecue, Southwest blackened chipotle or spicy Buffalo chicken, sweet pig with ham and pineapple and a vegetarian as fresh as the farmers' market. The pizookie, warm chocolate chip cookie, is to die for.
3800 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park; 727-525-4640
California Pizza Kitchen: Shopping the International Mall? Save some change for lunch at CPK, especially the chopped salads and designer pies a la Wolfgang Puck. Munch pizzas topped with roasted artichoke spinach, caramelized sweet onion cheeseburger pizza, vegetarian with Japanese eggplant, Mexican carne asada, and a heavenly fontina cheese wild mushroom (portabello, crimini, shiitake and white). The original BBQ chicken started here, made special by the snoked gouda and fresh cilantro.
International Plaza, 2223 N. Westshore Blvd. #189; 813-353-8155
East Coast Pizza: You can order a personal pizza, thin or Sicilian crust with any combo of toppings, or just by the slice at East Coast Pizza. Cluck over the barbecue chicken and Buffalo chicken pizzas, or go wild with a meatlovers or Hawaiian pizza. Ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti and manicotti round out the yummy Italian fare. You also can get all three parmigiana as entrees. Added touches include a tasty kids' menu, beer and wine list and for dessert, sugary zeppola.
13340 Lincoln Road, Riverview; 813-234-1700
10433 County Road 39 S., Lithia; 813-737-1919
Pizzaiolo Bavaro: Italian brews (Moretti, Peroni) and wines, from a berry good Amarone Classico to a nicely balanced Pinot Grigio, can spice up your Neapolitan pizza experience at Pizzaiolo Bavaro. The buffalo mozzarella and the lighter-than-a-feather pizza dough comes topped with the freshest of vegetables and meats. You'll want to come daily for a different succulent pie: The prosciutto with basil or the sopressata and Italian olive? The carne or the prosciutto and artichoke hearts with basil? Or maybe the cipolla (caramelized onion, provolone) or the zucchini, eggplant and mixed peppers vegetarian? Tempting and worth it.
514 N. Franklin St.; 813-868-4440
Rigatoni's Tuscan Oven: In addition to gluten-free pies, Rigatoni's offers low-carb pizzas for the health conscious. My favorite? The gourmet tomato and feta or spinach and feta concoctions, accompanied by fruity sangria or Peroni by the pitcher. Sweetening the experience is the the Tuscan flan and dessert flights for tasting and sharing. Kick it off with Tuscan grilled oysters or lightly breaded soft shell crab, accompanied by the garlic knots or bruschetta if you have four to feed.
3437 W. Kennedy Blvd.; 813-879-7000

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The Grand Del Mar
Temecula Creek Inn

Everywhere Else
Anna Maria Beach Cottages
Epic Hotel Miami
Los Cabos Resort
Crystal River, Florida
Sanibel Beach Resort, Florida
Sonoma Mission Inn

Upcoming Events
San Diego Beer Week
The Old Globe Theater
Newport Jazz Festival
Clearwater Jazz Festiva