TEMPLE TERRACE — In Mayor Frank Chillura’s opinion, the restaurant that opened March 10 in the Temple Terrace City Center is exactly the type of eatery the town needs.
With his wife, Angela; his 13-year-old son, Steven; and friend Carl Averi-Cooper in tow, Chillura stopped in for lunch on a recent Tuesday afternoon at Bacco and Venere, 8787 N. 56th St., adjacent to the Temple Terrace post office.
Its name was inspired by Bacco, Rome’s ancient mythological god of wine, and Venere, the goddess of beauty, and is being billed as a place that provides “the real taste of Italy.”
Owners Jim Oliverio, of Temple Terrace; his son, John Oliverio; and Antonio Iaquinta, Jim’s cousin, all are of Italian descent. In fact, Iaquinta, a culinary arts specialist, emigrated from Italy specifically to serve as the restaurant’s head chef.
“We serve homemade southern-style Italian food, the kind of food I grew up on,” said Jim Oliverio, who noted the restaurant’s cuisine is authentic and unlike most other eateries in America labeled as such.
For example, he said, there are only four restaurants in the country where pizza is prepared similar to that at Bacco and Venere. Customers are given a choice between a tomato or a virgin olive oil base as well as a host of meat, vegetable and cheese toppings.
Its menu, written in Italian and English, also includes sandwiches made with freshly baked artisan bread, salads and a wide range of appetizers, which Jim Oliverio contends are an important component of most Italian meals.
There is also pasta, and soups made with chick peas and beans. And there are meat and chicken dishes, specials, and homemade sweet treats prepared from scratch on the premises.
And to top off a meal, the restaurant offers several flavors of handmade gelato, the Italian equivalent of ice cream that may also be purchased by those stopping in.
Beverages of all kinds also are available, including American-style coffee and Italian espresso, domestic and imported beer, and soda.
In addition, there is a wine dispenser where patrons select and serve themselves glasses from a lineup of eight varieties available by sliding a prepurchased card into an automatic dispenser.
After the wines are dispensed, the bottles are automatically re-sealed with nitrogen gas to protect their flavors and freshness.
“Our restaurant is still a work in progress,” said Jim Oliverio, noting the bakery, which is not yet fully operational, should soon be in a complete functioning mode as well as a deli that will feature an array of gourmet meats and cheeses.
“It’s very nice here and very classy,” said Chillura, who upon meeting Iaquinta struck up a conversation with him in Italian, a language he learned as a child of Italian-born parents.
Temple Terrace resident Susan Miletta and friend Jeanne Marton from Egypt Lake had also stopped in for lunch. It was Miletta’s first visit and Marton’s second.
“It’s wonderful,” Miletta said. “Everything is fresh and everything is homemade.”
The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and reservations are accepted and recommended for large parties. Call (813) 989-3230.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]