Wednesday night was a fun treat. Members of Tampa Bay Bloggers were invited to try Grimaldi’s Pizzeria at WestShore Plaza. I wasn’t sure why pizza night was so special, but then I had never been to a Grimaldi’s before!
If you trace pizzerias back to the very first one in NYC, one of the two owners broke away and opened the 2nd pizzeria in the USA, and that was the first Grimaldi’s. To try to keep their flavors consistent in their locations all around the country, they use tomatoes from the same area of the same farm from year to year, have used the same recipes for over 100 years, and have low moisture mozzarella from free range cows made just for them. Even their Hormel pepperoni is an exclusive recipe aged for a year. And their sauce can’t be duplicate because of the amount of love they add, their Tampa Manager, Randy, told us 😉
But get this – because great crust starts with great dough, and dough needs water, they have a chemist come to each location and formulate the water to match the NYC water used in the first Grimaldi’s!
Their sizes are just perfect. A 12″ may be a medium in other locations, but it’s a personal pizza here, and can feed 2. We had a group of 11 and tried 2 salads, an antipasto platter, 7 pizzas and 2 desserts. (Yes, 7 pizzas. Got your drawstring pants on?)
First we tried the house and Mediterranean salads. The house salad has Romaine Lettuce, Red Onion, little Cherry Tomatoes, Oven Roasted Sweet Red Peppers, Mushrooms, Sicilian Green Olives and a Vinaigrette Dressing. I enjoyed this as a basic starter. I actually took the leftovers home, and my friend Tom who has been cooking for about 30 years popped 2 of the olives in his mouth and said they were “two of the most tasty and delightful olives I’ve ever had in my life. Just briny and flavorful.” I don’t like olives, but there’s two cents from someone who does!
The Mediterranean salad was similar but had Romaine Lettuce, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese, Red Onion and a Vinaigrette Dressing. I took two bites of the feta cheese from here, which was not too salty and very soft, but I didn’t dig in because of my cucumber allergy.
The antipasto platter was something Brian really enjoyed. He was getting hungry after all this talking and socializing, and he hardly eats salad. The platter had fluffy, fresh Mozzarella, Oven Roasted Sweet Red Peppers, Genoa Salami, Olives and Fresh Baked Bread. He made a bread, salami, mozzarella layering and let me snap a photo before eating it in 2 bites. Boy is their mozzarella perfect!!
Then we started trying pizzas. All of their pizzas have the same thin crust. It’s not so thin that it snaps or flakes away, but it’s fairly thin. The first pan had half “regular” cheese and half pepperoni. Their sauce was great and their pepperonis are cute and tiny, just smaller than a quarter.
The 2nd pan had white pizza. The mozzarella is free to play with garlic and EVOO on this pizza with no red sauce. The other half was white pizza with sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I love sliced tomatoes on pizza, and rarely get the chance to eat it because my family does not. There were no leftovers on my plate of this pizza!
The 3rd pan was their pesto pizza. Half was plain with the pesto sauce, and half had artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. The manager said they have – “no nuts in the pesto, so you can share it as a group.” Wouldn’t want those with nut allergies to feel left out! Some of this pizza came home with me. It was so unique, I wanted the opportunity to fill up on it again when I was eating a full meal of it and not trying little bites of each.
The Pizza de Resistance was buffalo chicken pizza. Picture ordering buffalo chicken wings in their spicy sauce, and it usually comes with a side of celery and blue cheese or ranch sauce to cool your tongue off from the spicy sauce. Now, picture all of that on one pizza! Tender chicken breast strips, Frank’s red hot sauce, gorgonzola cheese crumbles and sliced celery on Grimaldi’s crust. There were some grumbles from our audience about the celery. It was chopped so tiny, I’m not sure why. This pizza is only available for a limited time!
Then came dessert of NY style cheesecake and cannoli. Brian and I have had chocolate cake twice at Gigi’s on 4th Street recently. Both times I have said, “They sure defrost a great cake.” Not Grimaldi’s… their cheesecakes are made from scratch in house daily, and the fluffy consistency proves it! The blend of sour cream, lemon juice and a sugar cookie crust (instead of graham cracker), keep this sweet, light and delicious! Also watch for seasonal flavors! The November cheesecakes are butterscotch toffee with toffee & Oreo crust & Heath bar crumbles (totally delicious, and not nearly as sweet tasting as it sounds) or pumpkin with cinnamon sugar cookie pie crust (the crust is mushy and sugary and to die for). Check back in December for peppermint cheesecake and amaretto in January. MMmm!
The cannoli was easily the best cannoli I have ever had in my life. The filling wasn’t chunky and didn’t taste too much like straight ricotta. The dough was cookie like and broke with a fork. Sometimes you can hardly bite into cannolis and by the time you crunch down the filling oozes out everywhere. These were easier to eat and simply wonderful!
No photos were allowed of the proprietary coal-fired oven, so you’ll have to come see it for yourself! Grimaldi’s is located on the west side of the mall near JCPenney. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, and you can watch the planes overhead while sipping over red checkered tablecloths for a great date night!
Learn more at http://www.grimaldispizzeria.com and be sure to use the hard-to-find and totally unnecessary scroll bar and sub menu items on their menu pages. See what we all had to say and spread the word by searching #grimaldistampa
To learn more about what’s hot around town, follow the Tampa Bay Bloggers. This post is made of my own opinions. I received free food, a gift card and a coupon without being asked to write this post.