If you work out at the Orangetheory Fitness center in Channelside, you've got to be a little nervous right now. Your spandex is soggy and your muscles burn, time to go out and rock the day. But what's this? The smell of thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza? Each pie customized and available in 90 seconds? You're looking at a lot more time on the rowing machine.
As the Channel District has filled up with young professionals drawn by Tampa urban living (finally), infrastructure has filled in around the complexes at Pierhouse at Channelside and Grand Central at Kennedy. Brand new on the scene is Fabrica Woodfired Pizza, Mayor Buckhorn to preside over its official "dough cutting" on July 17. Jonathan and Estefania Perez, working with San Francisco-based Culinary Edge consultants, have brought a quick-serve, Chipotle-ish approach to sophisticated dark-edged, tender-middled pizzas, the 'za lineup supplemented by smart salads, some really good meatballs and doodads like craft beer and gelato. The prices are very reasonable and you can take it to-go; that right there could put a little crimp in the magnitude of your Orange Effect.
The dough itself isn't yet quite as flavorful as that at Ava, Bavaro's or Pizzeria Gregario, but the ideas are similar: a fresh and lively tomato sauce made of pureed San Marzanos, springy fresh mozzarella, whipped ricotta, roasted eggplant and a lot of other great ingredients like sweet and sour onions or roasted broccolini. These things are spread sparingly (in the pizza world, sparing beats lavish any day) over a hand-stretched thin dough, not always perfectly round but roughly 12 inches, then scooted into the maw of a white-domed oven, briefly. Because the restaurant is so new, it's not surprising that there's a little variation in doneness pie to pie, a common issue in super quick-cook ovens. They will get that worked out.
Walk in and up to the counter, then choose your toppings, or choose from a short lineup of house combinations. (The Verdura, $12, and Melanzane, $12, are both aces; one night the Carni, $13, seemed a tad swamped by its sausage, pepperoni and meatballs.) Then keep walking and consider a salad: The Caesar with shredded kale ($5 small, $8 large) is wholesome and appealing, and the caprese with little moz balls and cherry tomato halves in a lively vinaigrette ($5) makes a good sharing nibble, as does the burrata with sliced prosciutto, arugula and grape tomatoes ($10). (Another salad option is just a point-and-choose ingredient assemblage.) This isn't fancy food in complex preparations, but the building blocks are solid.
The first couple weeks of service, beer and wine and gelato were MIA, but now there are a few wine offerings and beer on tap and in bottles, all priced well. The Perezes, Jonathan, 27, and Estefania, 25, have assembled a young and fresh-faced team that brings a sense of ebullience and fun to the industrial-chic dining room, with a handful of picnic tables out front when the weather accommodates. The design feels just right for the Pierhouse residents: hip but still casual.
For people who live on-site, it's great to have another dining option that doesn't require wheels. For those of us coming from elsewhere, though, it's really hard to figure out where to park. In a couple of visits I drove the perimeter blocks looking for a lot, only to dump my car blocks away streetside and hoof it. Perhaps a parking-guidance sign out front for would-be diners?
Fabrica has multiple meanings: factory, construction and so forth. While the restaurant feels like a sweet independent vision, the furthest thing from a factory, it certainly is helping to build a robust dining scene in Tampa's burgeoning Channel District.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.