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Bavaro’s owner will open Tampa Italian restaurant Oronzo this spring

It’s a fast-casual collaboration between Dan Bavaro and Front Burner, which operates the Melting Pot.
A rendering of the new fast-casual Italian restaurant Oronzo, which will bring its first location to Tampa. [Courtesy of Oronzo]
A rendering of the new fast-casual Italian restaurant Oronzo, which will bring its first location to Tampa. [Courtesy of Oronzo]

A culinary project several years in the making from Bavaro’s owner Dan Bavaro and the Melting Pot franchise operator Front Burner is headed for Tampa.

Under construction just off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in the Walk at Highwoods Preserve, Oronzo will specialize in fast-casual Italian bites, according to a news release. The restaurant at 18027 Highwoods Preserve Parkway has a projected opening of late April.

Oronzo is named after Bavaro’s grandfather, Oronzo, who came to New York from Giovinazzo, Italy, in the early 1900s. The menu plans to showcase piadina, the traditional flatbread that Bavaro told the Times is especially prominent on the Adriatic coast where Giovinazzo is located.

“I have been studying piadina breads, its preparation methods, as I did Neapolitan pizza dough years ago,” Bavaro said in an email, “and have reverse engineered the process ... to replicate a bread near identical to what they had used back then.”

The restaurant will use piadina — made with imported Italian flour, sea salt, lardo and water — in piatto pizzas and in wraps built upon fresh ingredients like farro. In addition, expect soups and salads, power bowls, meatballs and house-made pastas, plus vegan items and gluten-free options such as zucchini noodles.

“(The) majority of the recipes and flavor profiles were inspired from Bavaro’s, as we’ve studied what our guests have enjoyed the past decade,” Bavaro said. “The concept is now to deliver delicious recipes in a more casual environment.”

Featuring roughly 40 seats inside and 45 out on its patio with communal dining and an Italian-themed mural, Oronzo is set to offer iPad ordering for on-the-go customers looking to grab a quick meal, with three devices to start. The restaurant will also have charging stations and a presence on takeout platforms like Uber Eats and Bite Squad, among other technology-driven conveniences.

Highlights on the beverage end include espresso, Peroni drafts, pinot grigio and Montepulciano. Bavaro said the Melting Pot’s beverage director, Paul Brown, will also help create a specialty blood orange tea for the menu from scratch.

With more than 105 outposts in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the fondue-slinging Melting Pot is the core concept of Front Burner, which is headquartered in Tampa and previously had Burger 21 and Grillsmith in its portfolio.

Bavaro’s operates restaurants in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa, where the flagship opened downtown in 2009, and a fourth location at Tampa International Airport.

“From the first time we met Dan at his downtown Bavaro’s location, we knew there was something special about him,” Front Burner CEO Bob Johnston said in the news release. “He is passionate about everything he gets involved with. Oronzo has great potential for future growth.”

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