I am almost embarrassed to say that up until last week, I had never dined at Ciccio’s/Water located in the heart of SoHo’s restaurant row. Aside from a quick stop back in August during Tasting Tampa’s Sangria Showdown, this was my first dining experience. Now I as myself, what in the heck took so long?
Located at 1015 South Howard, Ciccio’s/Water is part of the Ciccio’s Restaurant Group which includes Tampa Bay favorites such as The Lime, The Lodge, Daily Eats and Ciccio’s Lodge. Having dined at the other concepts, I knew I would not be disappointed. I started off with one of their famous “Slamgrias” and had mine with, of course, champagne. Made with fresh fruits, champagne and served in a giant goblet, this drink was definitely slammin’!
The Slamgria was the perfect way to kick off my Friday night and it took me most of dinner, but I managed to finish the whole drink. The champagne adds a nice touch and I would love to order it again. Besides, it makes a great conversation piece. 😉
Before I go on and share my wonderful meal with all of you, I must say that my pictures do not do any justice for the gorgeous presentation of their innovative dishes. I am learning about photography and I struggle with shooting pictures at night, so bear with me. 🙂
Since it was my first time here, owner Steve Lanza was a gracious host and brought out several of their signature items for me to try. The first dish was a duo of Short Rib Meatballs. Now, my last name isn’t Guida for nothing and I consider myself a meatball connoisseur. The best way to describe these is simply “amazeballs!” Hearty and rich with pan juices, one was topped with cabernet reduction and a tomato parmesan sauce while the other was dressed in a balsamic reduction. The flavors brought me back to my favorite Italian neighborhood in the country, North Beach in San Francisco. Any place that reminds me of home immediately receives a special place in my heart, so thank you Ciccio’s!
The next dish was one of my favorites of the evening: Pistachio Wasabi Crusted Seared Tuna Bruschetta with edamame hummus, seaweed salad and soy ginger vinaigrette. No they didn’t!! Oh yes they did!! For me, this is a dream come true and has several of my favorite things all combined. I love this spin on bruschetta and the edamame hummus is insanely delicious. The tuna was fresh and fabulous. You must order this and pair it with a glass (or bottle) of Honig Sauvignon Blanc.
I was feeling a little down this particular night after a stressful week and a Friday that was more like a bad Monday. Now, the champagne Slamgria was helping my mood, but this next dish really turned my frown upside down. What on God’s great earth could be better than Lobster Baked Mac-N-Cheese with Truffle Oil Drizzle? The answer is simple, NOTHING! As we Californians often say, this dish is “hella good.” (You can take me out of California, but you can’t take the California out of me). Rich, creamy and downright sinful, this dish is so good you will forget your own name. I was in such a state of euphoria that I forgot to snap a picture of the chunks if lobster and savory macaroni. Oh, don’t worry, I will be featuring this dish on it’s own since it is so “hella good.”
No matter how full I am, I always have room for sushi. Ciccio’s Water has long been on my list of sushi destinations in Tampa Bay and their sushi is everything I imagined and more. Known for their unique rolls such as Bambino (coconut shrimp, mango, cucumber, cream cheese topped with spicy tuna, tempura crisp and sriracha aioli), Dino & Jimmy (Alaskan crab meat, tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, scallion, topped with kabayaki glaze, sriracha aioli and sesame aioli), and Spicy Diablo (Ahi tuna, tempura onions, topped with spicy tuna, beet tobbikko, daikon sprouts, and sriracha aioli and sesame seeds), Ciccio’s Water has become a household name in Tampa Bay for their incredible sushi.
I am such a lucky girl and got to try two types, one of which was a special they were featuring called “Heavenly Gates” (left in picture) which consisted of fresh tuna, cucumbers and crab and topped with a jalapeño lime aioli and freshly chopped jalapeños. They had me at jalapeños on this one and it was excellent. I managed to make room for the other which was topped with both salmon and tuna. Simple and clean, it was fantastic. I can’t wait to return for a night of just sushi and cocktails.
I also got to sample their “Almost Gluten Free” Thin Crusted Pizza. Eight inches of deliciousness, it is topped with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. I enjoy thin crusted pizza and this one is fantastic. With just 22 carbs and slight traces of gluten, how can you go wrong? Simple. Fresh. Delish.
Now, you can’t go to Ciccio’s and not try one of their famous ” California Bowls”, but I was too full to even think of ordering anything else. With your choice of steamed yellow rice, sticky rice, brown rice, farro or chilled Asian noodles, their California Bowls are out of this world. I was absolutely stuffed, so Steve brought me a small sample of their Spicy Brazilian with blackened chopped chicken, black beans, avocado, corn, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and crispy lettuce. I took a few bites and took the rest home. It was outstanding!
The last entree of the night was another bowl of pure comfort and joy. Their Penne Marsala is on of their house classics and is a family recipe that continues to impress diners in Tampa Bay. Prepared with sliced chicken breast, wild mushrooms, Marsala, a touch of butter and onions, this savory bowl of heaven will warm your heart and your taste buds. I am a huge fan of Marsala, so this dish won me over with it’s rich flavor. After two bites of pure bliss, I took the rest home and enjoyed for lunch the next day.
My evening ended on a sweet note, as I can never say no to dessert, especially when Nutella is involved. I ordered their Gluten Free Nutella Cake and it was sensational. Rich Nutella and airy cake combined with fresh berries and whipped cream. I was a happy girl and ready for bed.
I would like to thank the entire staff of Ciccio’s Water, especially Steve Lanza, for the fantastic evening and superior service. As part of my #31DaysOfLove, I have a gift card to Ciccio’s Water to give to a reader. To enter, simply tell me this: if you were to create your own sushi roll, what would you call it and what would be in it? I will give the most creative roll the gift certificate and will pick a winner on Friday, December 21st. Until then, stay delicious!