Last summer Creative Loafing Tampa checked in with the Santell family about its forthcoming namesake restaurant in Odessa. Santelli Pizza & Pasta took its time perfecting its menu and renovating its home at 13357 SR-54 throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, nearly six months after its initial interview, Santelli is preparing to open its doors to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Just days away from its debut, founders Ralph and Susan Santell, want to give diners a taste of their Italian heritage while incorporating from-scratch recipes Ralph acquired over the years in the restaurant industry. The fast-casual restaurant invites diners to tuck in for an evening around a hot plate of pasta and good company similar to family dinners from his childhood lasting up to four-and-a-half hours. Well, you don't have to stick around that long.
Oh, and if you're not quite ready to dine indoors, Santelli offers outdoor dining out on its patio lined with Italian Cypress trees. You can also grab your meals to go and get your carb overload on in the comfort of your own home in your stretchy pants.
Speaking of eats, let's dive into offerings. Future diners can expect to see iconic Italian dishes to decorate the menu, which means calzones, zeppole, pasta with housemade sauces and New York-style pizzas. Small plate options include bites like calamari fritti, meatballs and ricotta, cheesy garlic bread, chicken cutlet fingers, wings, and pane e bruschetta comprised of toasted focaccia bread topped with vine-ripened tomato bruschetta, olive tapenade, shaved parmesan and basil. Small plates range from $7-$13.
One of the pasta stars is predicted to be a classic serving of spaghetti and meatballs with the family's own "Sunday Sauce." Another is provided by the couple's daughter, named "Melissa's Signature Bolognese" featuring housemade meat sauce served over rigatoni.
Want something on the lighter side? There are also a handful of signature salad options like Caprese, Cesare, and Alla Festa made with spinach, bacon, walnuts, goat cheese and balsamic.
For the pies, Santelli takes crust options seriously by offering regular, gluten-free and cauliflower. Diners can opt for a build-your-own pizza option or snag an artisan pizza with combos like the Sopranos made with red sauce, mozzarella, cremini mushrooms, roasted red onions, Italian sausage, and white truffle salt. Damn.
When it comes to sips, diners can choose from non-alcoholic drinks like Jones soda, fountain drinks, tea, Voss, San Pellegrino sparkling water, and milk for the kiddos. For a buzz, there's a lineup of white and red wine as well as a selection of bottled beer.
As far as COVID-19 precautions go, the restaurant will follow all city and state ordinances as well as CDC guidelines. Diners must wear a mask upon entering and when moving about the restaurant, tables will be socially distanced, and all staff will be sporting a mask.
Full disclosure: Melissa Santell is a CL contributor.
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