TAMPA — Jeff Gigante, one of the founders and principals of Ciccio Restaurant Group (Lodge, Green Lemon, Fresh Kitchen, Daily Eats, Ciccio, Better Byrd, etc.), is doing it again.
He is partnering with Jason Brunetti of Brunetti Pizza, (with locations in New York City and the Hamptons) to open Forbici Modern Italian in Hyde Park Village. They are taking over the space that until recently was slated to be another outpost of Better Byrd, which has its flagship location on Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg.
Why the switcheroo?
"Better Byrd is growing month over month, but we do understand that it's a new concept and needs time to get in its groove," Gigante said. The Hyde Park space, at 5,800 square feet, was too big for fast-casual grab-and-go, he said.
"And we felt it was the perfect time for an Italian concept."
In the past few years pizza, especially Neapolitan style (blistering hot wood oven, tender centered, sometimes eaten with fork and knife), has blown up in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. This is something different, Gigante says. What he and Brunetti aim to do is Roman style.
New to Tampa, Roman-style pizza is having a moment in the United States. Made in long slabs, it's often cut into rectangles with scissors (forbici means scissors), often sold by weight. Sturdier and thicker than the Neapolitan style, it has a long-fermented dough, is airy and light, is fine eaten at room temperature and delivers well.
So, when can you Uber Eats an order of Forbici Modern Italian? Gigante says a target opening is in August.
While Forbici is not a Ciccio Restaurant Group project, Gigante is getting the gang back together. He will be owner on premises. Brunetti, who started with Ciccio 12 years ago before pursuing his own ventures in New York, will be the managing partner and run the production. CRG co-founder Jim Lanza is an investor and CRG executive chef Luis Flores is overseeing menu development (an onsite chef is yet to be hired).
With Better Byrd displaced, CRG is looking for a new roost for their chicken-and-doughnut concept, but there are other distractions: Lanza has bought what was until recently T.C. Choy's, with a tentative multi-concept restaurant for the space. In May, the group welcomes Taco Dirty to Me at old SoHo Tavern (interestingly, it's the space they originally planned for Better Byrd before switching to Hyde Park Village), and the Lodge should close in the next 60 days and go through a full reconception. Oh, and if you've driven by what was once Maria's End to End car detailing at 1101 S Howard Ave., it's clear that the group's recently opened Sweet Soul is going gangbusters (acai bowls and vegan matcha soft serve: Plant High schoolers' mother's milk).
Forbici will include several varieties of Roman-style pizza, salads, Italian tapas, grain bowls and fully composed entrees. Adjoined will be a small grab-and-go pizzeria for locals and shoppers seeking a quick bite. Forbici will also offer full bar service with house cocktails, wines and cocktails on tap as well as craft beer.
For Gigante, pizza is going back to his roots.
"This is my DNA. I started out in pizza years ago at Florida State with Gigamo Brothers Pizza, which we opened in my senior year. I haven't been more excited in the past four weeks since I moved here in 1996 to do the first Ciccio."
For now, though, with double-digit restaurant concepts and more on the horizon, Gigante is hopping on a plane to the Caribbean for a little R&R before any further restaurant R&D.
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Contact Laura Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.