Snack Attack: Tampa
Man cannot live on political convention concessions alone.
Luckily, Tampa, Fla., denizens have been feeding Roll Call dining recommendations that should appeal to out-of-towners requiring a break from the ordinary and a taste of something different.
Not Your Ordinary Food Truck chef/co-founder Jeremy Gomez officially launched his roving meat carnival this past June.
The unconventional toque got his first taste of the food service industry working at an Outback Steakhouse at the tender age of 14. In the intervening years, he clambered up the corporate dining chain, dropped out for several years to tour with his rock band, and is now back in the kitchen making food for Twitter-savvy Central Floridians.
NYOFT specializes in exotic meats (alligator, kangaroo, ostrich), worldly coolers (original recipe Dr. Pepper from Dublin, Texas; Manhattan Special espresso coffee soda from New York; Schweppes Lemonade from overseas), and, of course, bacon.
“We literally give away slices of bacon,” Gomez said of the complimentary strips of applewood-smoked or wild boar meat candy served alongside every order.
Gomez eschews traditional toppings (mayo, ketchup, mustard), electing to dress his handcrafted burgers with cream cheese, shallots, red leaf lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. Signature creations have included “The Spread,” a half-pound Wagyu burger slathered in peanut butter-bacon spread and the “NYO Blue,” an ostrich patty decorated with aged Amish blue cheese.
Build-your-own burgermeisters wishing to double-down on their carnivorousness are invited to crown any grilled creation with a 4-ounce lobe of foie gras. “Everyone should be able to enjoy meat butter,” Gomez said of his personal philosophy.
While he’d love to service the convention crowd, Gomez said food trucks have been warned to keep their distance.
“They won’t let us anywhere near there,” he said of the security perimeter around the GOP gathering.
He is, however, amenable to visiting with interested parties – provided enough folks let him know (@NYOFoodTruck) when and where they’d like to sample his gastronomic wares.
According to Tasting Tampa guru Todd Sturtz, Wood Fired Pizza serves up the best pies in the area.
Owner and pizza perfectionist Peter Taylor told Roll Call he’s spent decades crisscrossing the globe in search of the perfect pie. The sum total of those world travels is presented at Wood Fired, a homegrown effort that weaves together European tradition with American ingenuity.
Taylor prides himself on signature touches such as leavening his dough with captured wild yeast and tapping local farms for gourmet toppings. But he’s also gone the extra step of building a one-of-a-kind pizza oven, and insists that patrons partake of the painstakingly prepared finished product on-site.
“I believe a pie begins dying the moment it is peeled out of the oven, so I don’t offer delivery,” Taylor said.
While he does traffic in classic constructs (white, Margherita), Taylor urges first-timers to take a chance on more daring items (pistachio-topped and Brussels sprout-studded ensembles both caught our eye) while in town.
Famished Midwesterners looking to get back to their roots should feel right at home at Cappy’s, the spot Sturtz tapped as his go-to for deep-dish pies.
Partner Ryan Hess said the nod to Chi-Town came at the behest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa native and co-owner Danette Capitano.
“The fact that we offer authentic Chicago-style pizza I think sets us apart as it is not readily available in Florida,” Hess said, noting that distinction has garnered them critical and commercial acclaim.
The Tampa chainlet spins out pies either Chicago- or N.Y.-style, preparing just two signature offerings – a straight vegetarian feast and eponymous supreme-style creation – while also fielding a robust make-your-own ingredient roster.
While breakfast and dinner are both metaphorically and literally on the table, our sources billed Pane Rustica as the place for an unforgettable lunch.
General manager Bryan Peterson hailed the artisan flatbreads and custom sandwiches as incredibly popular. But the main attraction appears to be the irreverently branded “Shut Up & Eat” platter.
According to Peterson, the chef’s choice meal deal ($12) fluctuates not just daily, but occasionally from minute-to-minute.
“It just depends on what the chef has on that particular day and [that] can change with every single order,” he said, listing wild boar- and rabbit-based dishes as samples of the eclectic base materials.
The kitchen prepares a full range of specials each morning, a rotation that includes seasonal salads, gourmet soups, house-made pastas and catch of the day arrangements.