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Ciccio Cali keeps it fresh


In an age when greasy food chains are found on nearly every corner and the country’s obesity rate is steadily rising, it is refreshing to find a local eatery that not only specializes in healthy food but also delivers at an affordable price.

Formerly known as Ciccio and Tony’s, an Italian restaurant that relied heavily on pasta and pizza dishes, Ciccio Cali reopened January in Tampa Palms as one of three Tampa locations. The restaurant has not only changed its name, but also dropped the carb-heavy menu and replaced it with a nutritious one that focuses on the lighter side of fare.

Matthew Lanza, one of the restaurant’s partners, said the restaurant’s focus is providing a healthy alternative to dining out, going out of the way to use only fresh and nutritious food in its dishes.

“We have evolved the menu to fit the healthy mindset of Tampa Bay,” Lanza said. “It is a healthy alternative to the old restaurant. Everything is made to order and everything is fresh.”

Ciccio Cali is proof that healthy food does not have to be boring, offering specialty bowls that customers can build themselves. They pick a base from options ranging from rice to spaghetti squash, then choose from 13 protein options, topped with a sauce created in-house.

A great combo is a spaghetti squash base with the Napa Blue selection: a braised short rib with sautéed mushrooms, diced red onions, crisp lettuce, crumbled blue cheese, diced tomatoes, crumbled bacon and blue cheese dressing with balsamic sauce.

Another great option is the wraps, particularly the Southwest, and the large variety of stir-fry. The white bean hummus offers a break from the average chickpea option and is also offered with
carrot sticks and cucumbers for a healthier option than chips.

They also have a brunch menu that is sure to please every taste with sweet and savory options such as Benny, the restaurant’s play on eggs Benedict, and Piggies in a Bowl.

No matter what diet a customer may be on, Ciccio Cali has something for everyone.

Healthy food offered at already affordable prices is only out-done by $2 Tuesdays, when customers can choose from a selection of tortilla flats topped with a choice of bowl filling. Lanza said it is a great way to sample the bowl variety.

“Tuesdays are huge with the USF crowd,” he said. “Especially with the $2 drink specials.”

Tuesdays at Ciccio Cali offer $2 Yeungling and Bud Light as well as $2 mimosas.

The atmosphere changes depending on when the customer visits.

Lanza said during lunch, the restaurant is fast-paced to better serve the business crowd looking for a quick eat, and at night, it is laid-back and relaxed. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant turns into a great date locale as live music fills the air.

“It is a neighborhood restaurant that caters to all of the needs of the neighborhood,” he said. “From college students to kids with their parents to business men and women, we really do serve a full spectrum of guests in the healthiest way possible.”