LITHIA — Louie Bevilacqua can still taste in his mind the rice croquets his grandmother Vera always made for soup.
They were such staples for him and his family while growing up in Long Island that after she died, the family turned to him to carry on a similar tradition.
Bevilacqua missed that flavor so much, he started making rice balls in her honor and they quickly became a popular request at family meals. As owner of FishHawk Pizza, he tested the rice ball market and sold enough in three years that he made sure to take the recipe with him when he sold the pizzeria.
So naturally when he opened his latest venture, Beve Cibo, an Italian eatery with a twist located in the former Formaggio's/Anthony's location at 5622 Lithia Pinecrest Road, rice balls on the menu was a must. You can get three as an appetizer — breaded with garlic, mozzarella and parmesan and golden fried — for $9.
Beve Cibo, which translates to drinks and food in Italian, is not your typical Italian restaurant.
"Don't expect to see grape leaves hanging on the wall," said Bevilacqua, who also owns Long Island Pizza Company on Big Bend Road. "It has a Hyde Park/South Tampa vibe but more affordable. The vibe of the place is pretty cool, not snooty."
Forget columns and sponge painted walls and think artistic graffiti (see the women's bathroom) meets psychedelic funk (see the walls of the dining area). Bevilacqua renovated the floorplan to separate the bar area, which also features a spillover outside patio area. A third portion of the business includes a separate entrance for takeout and delivery orders, mostly for hand-tossed-brick oven pizza.
As a FishHawk resident, Bevilacqua thought the area needed a gathering place like this that includes 100+ seats, a full liquor offering and popular Italian dishes. Two items that diners seem to enjoy are the Fradiavolo, which is shrimp, clams and mussels plated over linguini in a spicy red sauce, for $18 and OMG meatballs, which is ¾ pound of giant meatball madness with ricotta and marinara for $9.
"Everybody eats out down here and one of the most rewarding things is a noisy dining room," he said.
Take a virtual tour of Beve Cibo and see specials online at facebook.com/bevecibo.
Pizza places pop up in Lithia, Riverview
Have a proclivity for more pizza? Amici's has opened in FishHawk Square, and Marco's Pizza is on its way to Fishhawk Crossing, near Publix.
In Riverview, a Pizza Hut has been permitted for 10167 Big Bend Road. The restaurant will reside between St. Joseph's Hospital outpatient building and Thornton's.
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