The Upper Crust
We found the best pizza on the beach
By Kimberly Rebman
Photos by Steven Kovich (www.kovich.com)
Some of us take our pizza a little too seriously. Eating it is a sacred, almost religious experience in the eyes (or in this case, the mouth) of a self-proclaimed pizza pundit. When it comes to the battle of good vs. bad, I’ve seen punches thrown and grown men cry. Well, maybe that was because of the jalapeño toppings.
But really, what makes a slice so sensational? Is it the ingredients? The style of the pie? Or maybe it’s the experience that makes us want to come back for more. We all have our go-to’s for pizzerias, our favorite choice of add-on’s, and our special crust preferences.
We, at the Beaches Visitors Guide, decided to set out on a quest and do some pizza probing in order to find out who has the best pizza in the St. Pete Beach area and what makes it so darn tasty.
Ten pounds heavier and with what seems to be a permanent case of garlic breath, we have found our favorites. These romantic, relaxed and affordable beachside pizza places will have you singing “That’s Amore!”
But don’t just take our word on it, be sure to stop in at these well-loved pizza spots and see for yourself why they just can’t be “topped!”
By the way… There is no particular order to the placement of the restaurants in this story. We went to so many other pizza places that are awesome as well but had to narrow our huge list down to these five favorites. You can trust that whatever you choose, you won’t regret it!
Tony and Nello’s Southern Italian Cuisine and Grille
1136 Pinellas Bayway South Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Monday-Saturday 11-10 pm Sundays 12-9 pm
Nestled in a quaint, unassuming strip mall along the Pinellas Bayway is Tony and Nello’s; Tierra Verde’s hidden gem.
Owned by Antonio “Tony” Cammarota, wife Tina, son Nello and daughter Lina, the well-loved Italian restaurant was originally known as JoJo’s, a hole in the wall pizzeria just two doors down from its current location. Hugely popular among the local islanders, it didn’t take long for the tiny eatery to make a big name for itself. The family run establishment decided to expand and re-name with what is now Tony and Nello’s. And after three decades of being in the business, Tony Cammarota and his family know what it takes to keep their customers happy, satisfied and returning for more.
There is not much to look at from the outside, but once inside you will feel as though you have taken a step back into the past, Old World Italian style. Think white butcher paper covered tables and painted murals of Italian landscapes; it’s like having a slice of Italy on a Florida island. There’s no stuffy, frou-frou decor here; rather, plenty of charm and character to go around, much like Tony and Nello’s hearty portions. Yet, I didn’t come in for their baked ziti or pasta puttanesca. I wanted pizza.
Tony and Nello’s large brick oven is nothing short of impressive. Sitting at a table just a dough ball’s throw away, I have prime view of the baking chamber, and the heady scent of crust wafting through the kitchen is olfactory heaven. Barely able to wait another minute, the waiter delivers my steaming hot pizza. The pie seemed much larger that I expected it to be, which is certainly not a bad thing. The thin, light and airy crust is perfection. It is flawlessly foldable and reminiscent of my recent trip to New York City. The sauce is rich and savory with a layer of fresh melted mozzarella, scrumptiously stretchy.
Tony and Nello’s has a nice sized list of specialty pies, including their Sausage Campangiola, a pizza prepared with white wine, sautéed rosemary peppers and onions. The ever popular Captain Blake’s pizza is a delightfully delicious blend of asparagus, shrimp, and garlic sautéed in a light oil topped with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. The 12” brick oven pizzas also come in a variety of ways. One of my personal favorites is the Pizza Verde, a pie topped with chicken, arugula, tomatoes and mozzarella, served either red or white. The Pescatore is sure to please any seafood lover with a sampling of mussels, calamari, shrimp and scallops, also served either red or white. And for the indecisive diner, Tony and Nello’s offers up plenty of toppings to customize your own pie. Personally, anchovies are a must, the sun-dried tomatoes are divine and artichokes are a light and fresh addition to the thick cheese and zesty sauce. Speciality toppings are definitely special. Fresh broccoli rabe, feta cheese, steak and prosciutto are just to name a few.
Overall, Tony and Nello’s ranks high on taste when it comes to pizza. It’s easy to see why the locals are so devoted and visitors are so eager to discover this Tierra Verde tradition.
Gennaro’s Pizza & Restaraunt
2004 Pass-A-Grille Way St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Sunday 12-9 pm
Closed Mondays Tuesday-Saturday 12-10 pm
It was a drizzly, dreary day. Gray skies like the color of ash loomed overhead. A lone seagull circled above, declaring with a shrill cry, a need to find parking lot scraps.
In the nostalgic beach town of Pass-A-Grille, wedged between a laundromat and a Circle K, sits a well-loved local favorite. Gennaro’s has been serving up some of the best pizza and Italian fare along the beaches for over 28 years now.
As I opened the door to the warmly lit and inviting trattoria, the heavenly scent of baking bread welcomed me in; rich, buttery fumes of pure nirvana. Sinatra belts out “New York, New York” over the restaurant’s speakers, evoking a very old school, Big Apple sort of feel. Black and white photographs of the Empire State Building and other New York City landmarks line the walls; linen tablecloths give Gennaro’s small space a sophisticated, classic look. Amber pendant lights hang low over tables, casting a golden glow.
But don’t let the smooth sounds of the Rat Pack and the well-dressed tables fool you. This place is hardly stuffy or fussy; rather, Gennaro’s boasts a comforting, relaxed vibe a block away from the sand and surf.
As I took a seat next to a window facing Pass-A-Grille Way, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” by Ella Fitzgerald came on. I ordered a glass of red wine and stared out at the passing cars. The seagull had found a half-eaten hot dog bun, reminding me it was time for my dinner, as I could feel my hungry belly begin to grumble.
While perusing the menu, I noticed Gennaro’s offers quite a few seafood items; always a plus, especially while in such close proximity to the beach. The Shrimp Feast specialty pizza is divine with its succulent shrimp, fresh garlic and savory herbs. If you are more of a land lubber, give the Chicken Florentine pie a try. Chunks of chicken cutlet top this pizza, along with a sprinkling of fresh spinach, creamy mozzarella and fragrant garlic.
And while the beach trattoria features many types of specialty or gourmet pies, Gennaro’s classic cheese and pepperoni is spot-on. You can also customize, or build-your-own pizza; a popular choice among many patrons. I created one consisting of mozzarella, artichoke hearts, and fresh garlic. Not overdone, but rather fairly basic as to not overwhelm by piling on too many unnecessary toppings. The cheese was thick, gooey and had a strong pull when lifting each slice. The artichoke hearts tasted fresh and light, while the garlic complimented nicely with its nutty, exquisitely bold flavor. The sauce was pure and delicate, not the least bit overpowering to the rest of the pie’s taste; just enough to satisfy. And the crust. Oh, the crust. Be still my pizza-loving heart. Gennaro’s crust is crave worthy; soft without being thick or chewy, airy, flaky and lightly crunchy. With every bite, absolute bliss.
And after that last, wonderful bite had been taken and I had to undo the top button on my shorts, I looked outside once more. Raindrops were beginning to fall, ever so softly. A mom and her toddler scurried across the street, wagon in tow, filled with sand toys. The seagull was gone. And though New York skyscrapers surrounded my table and Sinatra continued to croon, it was in that moment I realized I was in a quiet, little town just yards away from one of Florida’s best beaches, content and satisfied from eating some pretty darn good pizza.
Tuttorosso Pizzeria Napoletana
7863 Blind Pass Road
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Sundays-Thursdays 11-10 pm Fridays and Saturdays 11-11 pm
Sundays-Thursdays 4-9:45 pm Fridays and Saturdays 4-10:45 pm
I anxiously pull my car up to the St. Pete Beach pizzeria, in the heart of what locals refer to as “Little Italy.” Nuzzled into a “garlic knot” of delectable Italian restaurants, stands Tuttorosso.
High up on my “must try” list for pizza, I was now officially getting my chance to test what could, in fact, be the best slices on the beach.
As I opened the door, I was immediately greeted by happy, friendly faces; the atmosphere was warm, inviting and cozy. At a small table next to the window, I watched the rain fall softly outside. An outdoor patio with umbrella tables offers a pleasant alternative to indoor seating on a cool, dry evening. The interior dining space is dark and intimate, yet exudes a relaxed, comfortable vibe. The sturdy, thick wooden bar looks like something you’d see in an old European pub. Tree-like branches seem to hold up the end of the bar, giving the fixture remarkable character. Black padded high top chairs line the bar, reminiscent of a time long past.
My waitress, Joanna, with her thick Polish accent, explained the menu items while Etta James’, “At Last,” soulfully played out in the background. As I peruse the large selection of gourmet pizzas, I began to find the process of decision making became more of a challenge. The good thing is, just about every pie on Tuttorosso’s menu is sure to please.
The Mediterranean features sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, artichokes, mozzarella and a light sauce. A fresh, tangy blend of ingredients that satisfies after a long day in the sun. The Polpettona is perfect for those with a heartier appetite. Luscious ricotta cheese with meatballs, tomato sauce, and topped with a thin layer of mozzarella. It’s like having grandma’s homemade Italian signature dish on a pizza. But the best, by far, is the Arugula; a personal favorite of mine and many other Tuttorosso regulars. This pie is like no other. Thinly shaved prosciutto and parmigiano cheese paired with arugula and fresh tomatoes, topped with creamy mozzarella. Nirvana for the taste buds. Just the smell of this pizza is heavenly. Generous amounts of prosciutto, a thick layer of cheese and tomatoes so fresh it is as though they were just picked from a garden. The thin crust is perfectly toasted, buttery and crisp; not too crunchy, not too chewy. By channeling my inner Goldilocks, I came to the conclusion that Tuttorosso’s crust is “just right.”
The Arugula is, by far, the freshest pizza pie I have ever tried. Clean-tasting and earthy, almost like a salad on every slice, or perhaps more like charcuterie. Either way, this one is award- worthy on my list.
And what’s even more amazing is you won’t even realize there is absolutely no sauce. Yep, that’s right, the Arugula is completely tomato sauce-free. But with such superb flavor emerging from the other toppings, the sauce is just simply unnecessary. In fact, on this pie, I tried adding sauce on the side to dip with, but rather than add yumminess, it overwhelmed.
With my last crunch of crust and my final sip of Chianti, I looked outside. The rain had stopped and Barry White’s “Let’s Get It On” begins to play on the restaurant’s speakers. Appropriate, I must say, since Tuttorosso’s pizza is so sinfully delicious and scrumptiously sensual.
This family-owned neighborhood pizzeria definitely got it right with their authentic Italian cuisine and palatable pizza pies. Tuttorosso is big flavor in our version of Little Italy.
Bones Pizza Shack
6708 Gulf Blvd.
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 7272-367-8885
Tuesdays-Sundays 11-12 am Mondays 5-11 pm
Tuesdays-Sundays 11-11:30 pm Mondays 5-10:30 pm
When I was in my arduous search of the best pizza on the beach, the name Bones kept “popping” up. Whether it be a recommendation through social media or just via casual conversation at a local tiki bar, it was always Bones.
Okay word-of-mouth, I got it. Must try this place.
I decided to drive over to the shack one evening. The sunset had somehow made me hungry, so I was ready to get my pizza fix. Now, with a name like Bones, one may think these guys are serving up ribs rather than a pizza pie. Though they do serve up some pretty yummy chicken wings, do not be mislead. Bones prides itself on its good old-fashioned, melt-in-your-mouth cheesy slices.
Bones Pizza Shack is literally that- just a shack. In fact, it’s so small you can only opt for delivery or take-out; there is no sit down dining, with the exception of a picnic table out front. Albeit tiny in size, Bones is big in character with its sunny yellow facade and quirky skeleton art. The paintings feature boney beach bums playing musical instruments, including one cool dead dude with a pizza horn; festive, fun and a little Dia de Muertos. I’m already a fan.
A walk up take-out window is where you place your order; pretty simple stuff here, folks. And speaking of ordering, Bones has plenty of exceptionally delicious varieties of pizza to choose from. Yes, I did say exceptionally. Of course there is just your basic cheese, but hey, if you’re going to start somewhere, start here. Bones cheese pizza is delightful. Flavorful and perfectly seasoned, every bite is wonderfully satisfying. The mozzarella was the perfect consistency; gooey, but not too heavy with just the right stretch factor. The crust was thin, buttery and slightly chewy; a little reminiscent of Pizza Hut, but surpassingly better. As for Bones’ speciality pizza, there are quite a few unusual choices. The Cuban Pizza is a cross between the quintessential Miami snack and, well, pizza. It even comes topped with pickles! Can’t decide between a hamburger or a slice? Why not have both and make all your taste buds happy with the St. Pizza Burger, complete with ground beef, bacon, onions and yep, pickles too. For the meat lover, try Bones’ traditional or Mexican meat pie. Personally, I would recommend the latter of the two. The Mexican takes on the traditional meat lovers pie and steps it up a notch by using ingredients such as salsa Fresca, pork, steak and chorizo. Yum, or shall I say, delicioso! The Fajita Pizza is also a popular choice. Rather than tomato sauce on this one,
Bones’ uses tomatillo sauce and tops the pie with onions, bell peppers, and your choice of chicken or steak.
All in all, I was quite pleased with my experience at Bones Pizza Shack. Casual, quick, no fuss but with plenty of taste. And their hours are a major plus, especially for the college crowd and late nighters. Bones delivers til 11:30 and takeout hours end at midnight.
The shack is not just a favorite with young adults, but it’s kid-approved as well. I recently let my eight-year-old and ten-year-old try a cheese and pepperoni. My extremely “selective” daughter most always peels the top layer of cheese off her slices, leaving a touch of sauce and a soft dough underbelly. A bit gruesome, may I add. Surprisingly, Bones was the first pie to break her of her pizza cheese peeling habit. In fact, she claimed the pie to be the best she’s ever tasted. My son was equally impressed.
Indeed, this is one of the yummiest pizzas I have ever tried and I particularly love its old-school beach style, which definitely makes it stand out from its competitors.
Bones Pizza Shack is a sure winner when it comes to quality, taste and style- no bones about it.
Gigi’s Italian Restaraunt
4399 Gulf Blvd.
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
105 Treasure Island Causeway Treasure Island, FL 33706
5901 4th St. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
Hours for the Gulf Blvd. Gigi’s:
Sunday-Thursday 4-10 pm Friday-Saturday 4-11 pm
Years ago, I had a friend of mine from Michigan who would visit our beaches each winter. She was a self-proclaimed pizzaholic (you know who you people are!), and swore up and down that the ONLY beach pizza worthy in her books was from Gigi’s. At the time I had never tried the quaint Italian bistro on the corner of Gulf Boulevard and 44th Avenue, just steps from the beach. I had heard good things; in fact, some insisted that Gigi’s pizza was the best in town. Others proclaimed they would never eat a pie elsewhere. Among those pizza aficionados standing strong in their opinions, I needed to take matters into my own hands and decide for myself.
With three locations in Pinellas County, two of which are located near the ocean, I chose the St. Pete Beach Gigi’s on the boulevard. The sign out front proudly states, “Voted Best on the Beach 18 Years in a Row.” Inside, nearly every table is filled, many of them with families and vacationers.
I’m seeing red, but I’m hardly miffed; rather, it’s the color of choice for the inside dining area of Gigi’s, and it most definitely works. I feel warm and cozy. Candles flicker softly at each table, while a large saltwater aquarium beckons curious children with its colorful fish. No doubt the atmosphere is ideal for an intimate dinner. Ambiance, yes, but what about the pizza?
Since 1967, the Newberne family has been serving up authentic Italian dishes that rival some of New York City’s best, and their signature crust is what makes their pizza so special; thin, flaky, buttery and light perfectly describe. Unlike other pizza crusts which may seem heavy and “doughy,” Gigi’s is crisp and delicate which allows the flavor of the sauce and toppings to prevail. And while the crust may be the star of the show in this pizza production, the sauce is fresh, bright and just as extraordinary.
With a variety of toppings to choose from, one could not possibly order a tasteless, boring pie at this Italian eatery. And when it comes to customizing my pie, there is one topping that stands out above the rest. I’m a huge fan of anchovies. Sure, most pizzerias serve the little salty fish, but Gigi’s are exceptionally tasty. If you’ve never tried them and are feeling a bit adventurous, this is the place to give them a go.
So maybe you’d rather not think too hard on what to place on your pizza. Anchovies, Canadian bacon, hot jalapeños- I just don’t know! Banish indecision and let Gigi’s figure it for you with their favorite combination pies. The Gigi’s Special is covered with some of my all-time favorites, such as pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. Their well- loved Pizza Margherita is an easy-to-eat, light tasting pie, with ingredients such as fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, and mozzarella. The Escargot White Pizza is a unique, yet delectable choice. Flavorful escargot, fresh mushrooms and chopped garlic combine beautifully. The Salmon White Pizza is another popular menu option. As with the escargot pie, this one also has no sauce. It is generously topped with fresh salmon, salty capers and savory red onions.
Looking for something more simple? Try a Gigi’s classic, such as their cheese and pepperoni. The mozzarella is melted just right and the pepperonis are small, upside down little domes of meaty deliciousness.
In all, I must say I’m quite fond of this place. The people of the beach have spoken, and I stand in confidence behind their every word. I am quite sure that with their speciality crust, cozy character, and close proximity to the Gulf waters, Gigi’s will be celebrating plenty of “bests” for many more years to come.
Slyce Pizza Bar
662 150th Ave.
Madeira Beach, FL 33708 727-308-7881
311 Gulf Blvd.
Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785 727-408-5272
Sundays-Thursdays 11-10 pm Fridays and Saturdays 11-11 pm
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to try a slice at Slyce. After all, the hype surrounding the place prior to its opening in February was as thick as melted cheese. Slyce was the talk of the town, even though it still had that new restaurant smell. Word had begun spreading like wildfire along the beaches of a hip and trendy pizza spot with bayside views, an outdoor patio and sensationally, scrumptious slices.
After hearing countless “Slyce is so amazing” reviews, I knew I had to follow the masses and give in.
And let’s just say, I’m glad I did.
Walking up the stairs to a fairly small structure overlooking the water, I could already feel the happy energy from within. Patrons were milling around outside Slyce’s entrance, smiling and laughing. This place seems to have a good aura.
Though busy, I was immediately seated by a friendly, young hostess. At an intimate table near the back, I took in every essence of Slyce. Sophisticated lighting enhances a chic, modern vibe; flat screen tv’s line the wall and the stylish bar is perfect for a post work cocktail.
Despite its contemporary interior, Slyce’s laid back, relaxed feel is largely reflected in its outdoor dining area and downstairs patio. There are plenty of tables outside with picturesque views of the water. Watch the boats as they cruise under the Tom Stuart Causeway Bridge, or take in a breathtakingly beautiful sunset with a cheesy slice of deliciousness in hand.
By far, you can’t find a prettier place to polish off a pizza pie.
The outdoor bar seats plenty and is the ultimate spot for sun-burned, thirsty boaters to grab some shade and an ice cold libation after a long day out at sea. (Yes, you can dock just yards away from the restaurant)
And no need to fret about the blistering Florida sun because even on the hottest of summer days, dining and drinking outside at Slyce can be quite a comfortable experience with a large overhead covering near the bar, umbrella tables and oscillating fans.
Just past the deck steps below is the ground level patio with its lounge furniture, fire pit and assortment of fun beach games, such as corn hole and ring toss. Because this area is not covered but fenced in and has plenty to do activity-wise, it’s a perfect spot for restless kiddos to play, while moms and dads can look on from just yards away and still have time of their own. Slyce also features a full weekly line up of live music played out on the patio.
This Madeira Beach hot spot captures the city’s easygoing, sunshiny vibe, but it’s what comes out on the silver pan that brings customers back.
Slyce’s pies are unique, have quirky names and are unbelievably tasty. The Here’s Johnny pie is to die for. This one is topped with meatballs, sausage, red onion, garlic and mozzarella. The Sunburn is hot, and not just in temperature. Spicy soprasetta, Cajun sausage, pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, green olives, fresh Serrano chilies and green olives, minus the sunscreen. Still not scorching your tongue enough? Ask for a side of Siracha, and that should kick up the heat just right. The Beach Bird pie features sweet BBQ sauce, chicken, caramelized onions, and parsley with a blend of smoked gouda and mozzarella. You’ll squawk with happiness after devouring this palate-pleaser. One of Slyce’s most popular pies is the Pear A Dice. A nirvanic combination of olive oil, freshly sliced pears, gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses, topped with shaved prosciutto. Talk about a slice of paradise! The oil gives the pizza a rich and smooth flavor, while the pears are bright and delicately sweet, pairing well with the saltiness of the gorgonzola and prosciutto.
If build-your-own pizza is more your style, Slyce has a large list of tantalizing toppings to choose from. I created a pie by selecting my usual favorites- artichokes, anchovies, roasted garlic and fresh mozzarella. The end result? Sinfully scrumptious.
You can also take the simplest route and go old school with a classic, never-out-of-style pepperoni and cheese.
Slyce offers their pie crusts three ways- signature (soft, airy and light), whole wheat or gluten free.
No matter what your preference, the pizza here is quality, aimed to satisfy with only the freshest of ingredients.
And not only does Slyce know how to make a good pizza, but they also know just the best way to serve it. To conserve table space, pies are sliced in half and presented on a tiered tray. Aesthetically appealing to the eye, but also a practical serving set up to allow more room and to encourage split toppings on a pie. I can confidently say that very few of my friends want my anchovies swimming over to their side of our shared pizza.
After licking my fingers (I have no shame), and wiping the last bit of sauce from the corners of my mouth, I am happy to confess my initial expectations of Slyce were far exceeded. Friendly, efficient and knowledgeable staff, postcard-worthy views, and a pie that simply surpasses all the hype.
Kimberly Rebman is the Head Writer, Editor,
and Publicist for the Beaches Visitors Guide.