Yes, that’s my beautiful 12 year old niece-TALLER THAN ME!! I smiled for the photo, but really I was crying on the inside.  After flying back home for a few days, and the sadness of being classified as a “short” Aunt, I decided to point out a few of the finer things one might find in Tampa. First, 

I am still taller than my other niece.  Yes, in a really “I am 39 and she is only 10” what are you thinking, still… is gives me a small pleasure in knowing that fact.  Okay, onto the food.
The best dish to be had in Tampa, is actually at my parent’s home.  The Taste of Lutz is well known in these parts. 

Nothing beats Mama’s Italian cooking.! So if you are ever going to visit Tampa, either call my Mom or visit the following:

Datz Deli    This is a new place that my friend Kim recommended. They have a great selection of olive oils, vinegars, cheeses, bread, desserts, etc.  You can sit down or take out.  The owner hired the food buyer of Whole Foods in NY to set the store up.  There is seating upstairs and outside.  A lot of the deli items are from small farmers- some organic, some hormone-free meats. Check our their website- a lot is going on at this store- live music, food events.  

And the best grocery store is Oceanic Market.  This grocery store has all you need to make any Asian dish.  Even if you are not cooking Asian- the produce is super cheap.  As you enter, to the right are soy drinks, bottled green teas, and canned coconut water.  This leads you around the corner to the produce section.  Publix has nothing on this joint.  You have fresh bamboo, duck eggs, lychees, lemon grass, and small Thai bananas.  There are all types of bok choy, Chinese greens, cabbages, and lettuces. The path leads you into the freezer section.  If you linger long enough you will see green tea ice cream, banana leaves, kaffir lime leaves, wontons, and turmeric. Dry good isles are loaded with all types of soy sauces, curries, rice, coconut milk, and dried spices.  Head to the back of the store and you are in for a real treat.  A counter of take-out food is available.  BBQ pork, stir fried rice, soup and even desserts.  The long isles have every noodle made to man available. Another isle is strictly teas. And the best is an isle of cookware. You can find beautiful tea pots, tea cups, woks, spatulas, and rice cookers.  The store if family run and if you have any questions, the two ladies at check out speak wonderful English and can help you find any items you might be looking for.The last place is not in Tampa, but over the bridge to St. Petersburg.  (About 30 minutes from downtown Tampa) is Mazzaro’s Italian Market.  Good God, if you have never been, GO!!! Writing a description of the place will not even do it justice.  My favorite thing to do here is go on a Saturday morning at 10:00, walk up to the pastry counter and get a Sfogliatelle, then sit at the coffee bar and order a cappuccino. They make fresh pasta and ravioli.  The wine room is usually having a tasting and you can sample away at the cheeses. The fresh mozzarella is behind the counter- be sure to get the little balls to nibble on for the drive back home.  I have been going to this place for the last five years and have yet found an Italian market that compares to it.
I’ve realized that Tampa is not a foodie town but if you look hard enough, there are some little gems to be found. Oh and did I mention…I have the best nieces!  

The Taste of Lutz- Mom’s House
Location: Address available for some delicious chocolate!
Datz Deli
2616 S. MacDill Ave.
Tampa, FL 33629
Oceanic Market
1609 N. Tampa St.
Tampa, Fl 33602
Mazzaro’s Italian Market
2909 22nd Ave. North
St. Petersburg, Fl 33713

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