BRANDON — Jeff Gigante of South Tampa doesn’t expect customers to dress-up to eat at the trendy Ciccio’s California restaurants he and his business partner, James Lanza, are opening in Tampa Palms and Riverview. But he expects people to love the taste so much they forget it’s healthy.
“We are the place you eat out at in-between the more upscale restaurants,” he said. “We are more of a neighborhood restaurant that is fast, friendly and offers healthy cuisine.”
Gigante said he expects the Tampa Palms restaurant, 17004 Palm Pointe Way, will open in October. The Riverview restaurant, on 11230 Sullivan St. in the Winthrop Town Centre, should be open by November or December.
He said the Tampa Palms location is more like a re-opening, since they closed in January after failed lease negotiations. They are relocating to The Pointe at Tampa Palms adjacent to Stonewood Tavern & Grill, Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
“When we opened in Tampa Palms in 1998, there was nothing beyond that plaza except cow pastures,” he said. “Now it’s all moved north. That’s where the energy is going. It’s time to move up north and still serve that community.”
Gigante said he is also excited about opening their fast-casual concept at the Winthrop Town Centre.
“This is the perfect location because they have their own little community yet we have visibility on U.S. 301,” he said. “We will get a lot of head turns from people who may have heard about us in South Tampa.”
Gigante said the Tampa Palms and Winthrop sites will be fast-casual versions of their larger restaurant on South Howard Avenue in South Tampa.
“It will be condensed, about 80 percent of the menu,” he said.
John Sullivan, the developer of the Winthrop Town Centre, said he is pleased with the wide range of restaurants and shops at the traditional marketplace. Ciccio’s will entice more people by adding to the mix of businesses in the Winthrop “public market,” Sullivan said.
Gigante said the goal of Ciccio’s California was to create healthful food dishes that didn’t taste bland. People can eat out without sabotaging their diets.
“We were doing gluten-free a long time before gluten-free was sexy,” Gigante said.
In order to perfect the concept for its business, the restaurateurs studied their customers’ dining selections. They found people were gravitating toward the healthier items or “clean eating.”
Their California bowls are served with a choice of steamed yellow rice, sticky rice or brown rice. People may substitute farro — a light brown grain — spaghetti squash or chilled Asian noodles. Some of the flavor options include the “Hollywood Fit,” with chicken breast, sun dried tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and cheddar cheese as well as the “Spicy Brazilian” with blackened chicken, black beans, avocado, corn, cheddar cheese, sour cream and lettuce.
“We are just kind of students of food,” he said. “We have been doing this for 15 years — offering great comfort food as well as healthful options. We see the trends are leaning toward healthful options.”
Visit cicciorestaurantgroup.com for more information.