1. Hillsborough

Paninoteca reopens with larger space as Dio Modern Mediterranean

Downtown Tampa's panini spot expands its space and its menu with dinner options.
Paninoteca reopens with a larger space at 519 N Franklin St. under a new name — Dio Modern Mediterranean. The new restaurant offers brunch and dinner, featuring kebabs and a lobster pasta.
Paninoteca reopens with a larger space at 519 N Franklin St. under a new name — Dio Modern Mediterranean. The new restaurant offers brunch and dinner, featuring kebabs and a lobster pasta.
Published Feb. 27

Since it opened in 2007, Paninoteca has been a popular downtown dining spot at the corner of Franklin and Twiggs streets. It has lived up to its name, which means sandwich shop in Italian, serving up paninis, wraps, Greek salads and hummus.

In Tampa's ever-growing food scene, Joe and Mary Khabbaz, the husband and wife duo behind the restaurant, decided to step things up a notch.

They initially set out to simply update their menu. But, after acquiring an additional 1,200 square feet from the former restaurant that operated behind them, the couple completely remodeled their restaurant. They will reopen the first week of March under a new name — Dio Modern Mediterranean.

"Part of the reason we decided to expand is because we saw downtown growing and we felt like now was the right time to do it," said Mary Khabbaz.

"It's drawing a crowd into this area, people who wouldn't normally venture into the downtown district. So we figured let's give people something to do down here, hang out and have some more dinner options."

Paninoteca was formerly dark and cozy inside, but according to Mary Khabbaz, Dio's atmosphere will be completely different.

"It's more open and airy," she said. "Everything is lighter and brighter with whitewashed brick walls and white and gray chairs."

And she believes the name perfectly matches their new restaurant.

Dio, meaning "two" in Greek, represents their second-time opening. And Modern Mediterranean represents their new menu, which adds brunch and dinner items like lobster pasta and chicken, steak and seafood kebabs.

Although many menu items are new, Khabbaz promises some Paninoteca favorites will remain, like their ceviche, hummus and chicken pancetta.

Dio Modern Mediterranean operates from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and 8 midnight on Sundays at 519 N Franklin St.

Prices range from $6 to $25, and for more information visit

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