CARROLLWOOD — As an officer in the Italian navy, Remo DiGiacomo had visited and worked in the United States for years.
One thing he noticed in his years here was that the American version of Italian wine wasn't the wine he knew from his native Rome.
"Whatever you find here is commercial wine. ... Real Italian wine is totally unknown here," said DiGiacomo, who moved from Washington, D.C. to Land O'Lakes in February.
Retired from his Navy position, he now owns and operates Sweet Secrets Enoteca in the Carrollwood Village Shops at South Village Drive and North Dale Mabry Highway.
Sweet Secrets is both a wine bar and a wine store.
"In Italy, enoteca is a very small, cozy, comfortable place where people can drink wine and eat food," said DiGiacomo.
With his enoteca, DiGiacomo hopes to bring an authentic Italian experience to local customers.
Specializing exclusively in Italian wine and beer, customers can buy by the glass or the bottle and are encouraged to taste before they buy.
DiGiacomo helps suggest wines to his customers' tastes and even offers light snacks to enjoy with the wine.
"This is the way that I think American people deserve to taste the wine," said DiGiacomo.
Since opening in July, "I find people have never heard about the wine that I'm selling and they fall in love."
DiGiacomo learned about the wine-making process through friends in Italy who make and sell it. Though he's never owned a business before, he is passionate about bringing a taste of his home to the Tampa area.
"Wine in even the most expensive restaurants (in the U.S.) are wines that are in supermarkets," said DiGiacomo. "Ninety-nine percent of wine I have, you can not find in Publix."
Wines run from $7 to $25 a glass, and $14 to $55 per bottle. DiGiacomo also offers service for off-site private parties.
Sweet Secrets Enoteca is at 13018 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. and is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
For more information, call 813-435-8734 or visit sweetsecretsenoteca.com.
Circles makes its return to Carrollwood
Also new to the Carrollwood Village Shops is the familiar Circles Bistro.
The restaurant with a long history in Tampa returned to Carrollwood in its new location in May.
Circles first opened in Tampa in 1988 in Carrollwood and closed in 2003 due to lack of adequate customer parking, said owner Michael Chulikavit, of Northdale.
The second Tampa location opened in 1998 in South Tampa and closed late last year when its next-door neighbor Ceviche wanted to expand and made a deal with Chulikavit to move.
"The name Circles came from the shape of the pita bread," said Chulikavit, who started with a sandwich shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., before moving to Tampa. His former partner still operates the original Circles, now a full-service restaurant, in Brooklyn.
"The menu has changed throughout the years, but we're Continental with an Asian twist," said Chulikavit.
Chulikavit is originally from Thailand and many dishes have a Thai influence. Entrees range from $10 to $30, and the restaurant also offers a Sunday brunch menu.
The new Circles is smaller than its former South Tampa location, but does have a full service bar.
"The bar is something we wanted to have in South Tampa, so we spent a little extra money," said Chulikavit.
Circles is at 13002 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. and is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For more information, call 813-969-0001 or visit circlessouthtampa.com.