The image, not to mention the taste, began to fade as soon as I realized the owners removed the sign.
The vision of golden pasta chips piled high with mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage and pepperoncinis stands as just a memory now that Old Chicago Pizza shuttered its doors at Brandon Crossroads on Providence Road.
The restaurant closed Dec. 27, but I can lament the loss of Italian nachos and Old Chicago's lunchtime pizza buffet for only so long. This situation calls for action.
You see, when Johnny Carino's — another place that served Italian nachos — went belly up a couple of years ago, I quietly waited for a new restaurant to fill the void. It didn't have to be another Italian place, but I did want something new and different.
Nothing against our current options, but in an area dominated by familiar chains, variety remains a needed spice for our dining lives. But instead of a new dinner option at the Johnny Carino's site, we ended up with a cell phone store. Sorry Verizon, but I'm interested in meal plans, not phone plans.
So I won't stand idly by and just hope another restaurant comes to fill the 6,000 square feet left vacant by Old Chicago. Even though I've got a feeling some chain already has designs on the spot, I'm putting in my specific requests now.
Sure, I've got about as much influence as a drop of olive oil in heavily-seasoned pasta dish, but I have to try.
In no particular order, here's my personal wish list.
Lee Roy Selmon's
Selmon's has long been rumored to want a Brandon location. In fact, it once had designs on a State Road 60 location before the deal fell through. If it comes, we get great barbecue, awesome cheese grits and, of course, some pretty good nachos.
The gourmet burger outlet now has three locations, one in Tampa and two in Sarasota. With nine different burgers, three types of buns, 25 toppings, 12 cheeses and 13 sauces, I think it can find a home in Brandon, especially with my cheeseburger-loving son just blocks away.
Boston's Restaurant and Sports Bar
It's similar to Old Chicago, but I would rate its pizza better. A location on Anderson Road in Tampa seems to be enjoying quite a bit of success.
It may be asking too much for owners Roger and Suzanne Perry to expand to Brandon. After all, their first foray into the restaurant business in South Tampa has gone from a New York-style deli to a gourmet beer/bar/restaurant that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I can dream of having such treats as the Ty's Two-Fister (warm pastrami and corned beef, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, and honey mustard on toasted pumpernickel) closer to home.
I'm not sure if the Old Chicago location provides enough space for the upscale Chinese bistro — where would they put the giant horse? — and we already have a number of Asian places (Lee House is awesome). But P.F. Chang's kung pao scallops are calling out to me.
Texas de Brazil
We've already seen one churrascaria-style restaurant come and go, but Texas de Brazil stands above the other Brazilian steak houses I've tried. However, with plans to open a location in Tampa this year, they may not want to expand again so soon.
The first of these tapas bars opened in Tampa in 1997, but it has since expanded to five locations. Why not make it an even half-dozen?
I don't often get excited about salad bars, but this place proves to be the exception. It's stocked with so much good stuff, I often opt out of their sandwiches.
Okay, the spot is way too big for the South's version of White Castle, but I grew up on those square burgers and I'm surprised we don't have one in Brandon.
What's our place? Well, right now, it's a concept that exists only in my mind, but I think it would be nice to have another locally owned restaurant that you can't find anywhere else. We have a few that fall into that category, but not nearly enough. I'm not opposed to chains, as you can see from this list, but it would be cool if a dynamic chef rose up and gifted us with a place that we could call our own.
Who knows? Maybe for once the trendy spot would originate in Brandon and then everybody would envy us.
That's all I'm saying.