TAMPA — Recently, at a soft reopening party for Timpano in Hyde Park, the dining room was packed with guests, many of them familiar faces.
Some were teenagers when they first visited the Italian restaurant with their parents, and recalled graduation dinners and family celebrations. Others were regulars up until the day the restaurant closed its doors.
But even for those with years of familiarity with the old Timpano, this restaurant — and the food — was all new.
On Monday, Timpano Hyde Park (formerly Timpano Italian Chophouse) officially reopened — the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
Though some restaurants closed as a result of the pandemic, the majority of Tampa Bay eateries reopened their dining rooms after the state’s six-week mandatory shutdown ended. Timpano remained closed the past year and a half.
In the interim, Tavistock Restaurant Collection, the Orlando-based chain restaurant group that owns Timpano, hired a new executive chef and the space underwent a complete gut renovation and interior overhaul. In January, the group brought on veteran restaurateur Michael Ferraro to oversee the company’s 12 restaurant concepts, which include restaurants in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, plus Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston and Las Vegas.
Timpano’s reopening was delayed, in part, by the large number of restaurants in the group, many of which went through big overhauls during the pandemic.
“Frankly, it was just a lot of projects in the works,” Ferraro said. “We wanted to make sure that when we did it, we did it the right way.”
And the restaurant at 1601 W Swann Ave. — which first opened in January 2005 and was purchased by the Tavistock group in 2011 — was arguably in need of a little update, anyway. The original Timpano billed itself as a 1930s-style Italian chophouse and speakeasy. The restaurant’s location at the corner of West Swann and South Dakota avenues has anchored Hyde Park Village for nearly two decades and helped cement the area as a dining destination even as businesses (including Timpano) went through financial ups and downs throughout the years.
Ferraro, who is Italian American and was most recently the corporate chef for the Charlie Palmer Collective, said that while updates to the restaurant were warranted, he wanted to make sure the spot stayed comfortable and approachable.
The new restaurant can seat roughly 175 guests and has “a whole new look,” Ferraro said, including new floors, lighting, a new bar and a renovated kitchen.
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And the menu, which is centered around Italian American classics and plates with contemporary spins, is almost entirely new. Only one dish made the cut from the old Timpano: the skillet-roasted mussels, a fan favorite for years.
Ferraro said the demand for the popular dish was loud and clear.
“Everyone was talking about it,” Ferraro said. “It’s simple, it’s delicious, it’s recognizable and it’s one of the things that people really wanted. You have to listen to the customer, and this one was blaring.”
Earlier this year the company hired executive chef Jason Saldutti, who was the executive chef at nearby Italian restaurant Forbici, to helm the kitchen at Timpano. Though the menu is distinct from its predecessor’s, there’s a nod to the old-school Italian chophouse theme with dishes like semolina-dusted fried calamari; meatballs with ricotta and red sauce; ribeye steak with fennel pollen and charred lemon; and a veal chop Parmesan.
The menu is highlighted by a handmade pasta program, which includes dishes like cavatelli with rapini, Italian sausage, chiles and pecorino; malfadine cacio e pepe; and a tableside macaroni “experience,” where servers whip up bucatini al pesto out of a giant Parmesan wheel.
The cocktail and wine program also received a full overhaul and includes drinks like a Sicilian blood orange frozen Negroni, a spicy margarita made with Calabrian chiles and a smoked Old Fashioned where the cocktail is prepared tableside and garnished with a pecan and pancetta crisp.
For dessert, the company tapped chef Stuart Whitfield, formerly of Orlando’s Glass Knife, to create a short menu of classic Italian confections with contemporary spins, including a bomboloni served tableside (this appears to be a trend here) where the cannoli cream-filled pastry comes with warm chocolate and caramel sauce, pistachio cream and a lemon verbena smoke. There is also a tiramisu, a flourless chocolate cake and a rotating assortment of gelato.
With so much new, Timpano Hyde Park could be an entirely different restaurant than the one it is replacing. Ferraro said his team even tossed around the idea of coming up with a different name, but in the end the spot’s time-tested brand recognition was too good to give up.
“Timpano wasn’t that old but it had name recognition for being there for so many years,” Ferraro said. “It’s a brand that we believe in.”
Timpano Hyde Park, 1601 W Swann Ave., Tampa, is currently serving dinner daily. Lunch and brunch will follow in the coming weeks. 813-254-5870. timpanohydepark.com.