Giovanni's Fresh Italian Kitchen, coming to Palm Harbor, is a family affair

The restaurant will provide simple spins on classics.

click to enlarge Thomas DeLisa, Rita DeLisa and John DeLisa of Giovanni's Fresh Italian Kitchen. - Alexandria Jones
Alexandria Jones
Thomas DeLisa, Rita DeLisa and John DeLisa of Giovanni's Fresh Italian Kitchen.

Family-owned restaurants seem to be getting harder and harder to come by. Yet that hasn’t stopped John and Rita DeLisa from opening their own — again.

In early 2019, the married couple and their son, Thomas, will bring Giovanni’s Fresh Italian Kitchen to Palm Harbor, which isn’t unfamiliar territory for them.

Rita and John previously ran two locations for their late Italian eatery, My 7 Kids, in Palm Harbor and Oldsmar from 2007 to 2010. During this time, the recession caused them to close both sites, but their regulars kept asking when they’d launch a new venture.

Luckily, John never lost his passion for the business and another restaurant was always part of the plan. He just needed to find the right location.

“After we closed down, John and I went to work because we had seven kids who were still in school. It was a rough couple of years, but we’re doing it again,” Rita said. “I’m staying at my full-time job for now.”

According to managing partner John, Giovanni’s is a family affair.

“I wanted all my family to work with me and provide a friendly family atmosphere with upscale food,” he said.

Giovanni’s will provide simple spins on Italian classics at 37611 U.S. Highway 19 N. Guests can start with appetizers like bruschetta Prince Edward Island mussels before digging into various pastas, sandwiches and even maple-bourbon pork chops. To accommodate larger families, the restaurant will also offer a menu option that feeds up to six diners.

Bonus: The DeLisas have committed to donating 10 cents to the nonprofit Feeding Tampa Bay for every pasta purchased.

As for the full bar, several beers are offered on tap, in addition to a list of imported Italian wines to complement any dish.

“The main thing is to get everyone in here,” said chef and minority partner Robert Trabulsi. “We don’t want to leave guests with a high bill. We want to be approachable for all.”

Thomas, who also serves as a chef and minority partner, added: “We’ll have whatever you like.”

Scheduled to open no later than mid-January, Giovanni’s sits on the ground floor of Lake Tarpon hotel Vista, making it a great fit for everyday diners as well as boaters who’ve worked up an appetite after a long day of fishing. The restaurant features 175 seats, plus a couple of banquet rooms with room for 35 to 80 guests.

Giovanni’s expects to serve lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Its website (which should be live soon) and forthcoming mobile app will offer online ordering, too.

“There aren’t too many real Italian family restaurants in this area, plus we have a leg up on everyone because we care,” John said. “I want to be able to hand Giovanni’s off to my family and leave a legacy.”

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