Ask the Locals: Jerome Ritchey & Wendy Ryan, TV twosome

click to enlarge Ask the Locals: Jerome Ritchey & Wendy Ryan, TV twosome - PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Ask the Locals: Jerome Ritchey & Wendy Ryan, TV twosome

Wendy Ryan and Jerome Ritchey are Tampa Bay broadcasters. Ryan is the co-anchor of the evening editions of ABC Action News and Ritchey is an on-air personality at HSN and the former co-host of WTSP-TV morning show Studio 10.

The couple met in 2001 when they were working at separate TV stations in Illinois. Ritchey, a former radio disc jockey from Illinois, was forecasting the weather from a station in Champaign. Ryan, an Ohio native who earned her reporting stripes covering the financial sector in Los Angeles, was co-anchoring the evening news at a sister station in Springfield.

Sparks flew when they finally met at a station photo shoot after interacting on air for weeks via video monitors. They got married two years later and moved to Tampa when Ryan was asked to join the ABC Action News team. In 2010, Ryan gave birth to their daughter Raquel. (Ritchey has a 20-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son from a previous marriage.)

The South Tampa couple admits they have a hard time flying under the radar at local restaurants. Ryan serves as a consumer watchdog for restaurant cleanliness. Her Dirty Dining series has long exposed roach- and rodent-infested eateries, so when the anchor enters an establishment you can bet the staff takes notice.

Luckily the pair has forged close relationships with many Bay area restaurateurs. In fact, Ritchey jokes that they select where they eat based on whether or not the owner hugs them when they walk through the door.

Best place to dine in style: Donatello Italian Restaurant. Jerome: “[Owners] Gino and his dad Guido [Tiozzo] are like family to us. Donatello is one of the few places in town that tolerate us and our loud friends.” Wendy: “I love to dress up on a Saturday night. I can do the bling thing at Donatello’s and still feel totally at home.”

Best place to get your grease on: Pach’s Place. Jerome: “The place is stuck in 1979.” Wendy: “So are the prices!”

Best place for teriyaki: Yoko’s Japanese Restaurant. Jerome: “It’s another one of these places where we get a hero’s welcome when we walk through the door.”

Best place to break the speed limit: Tampa Bay Grand Prix. Jerome: “I’ve taken my son there for years. They have Italian-built electric Pro-karts. It’s all indoors. The cars are really fast and the building is huge.”

Best South Tampa playground: Anderson Park. Wendy: “Our daughter is small, so I like that there are separate areas for big kids and little kids because our daughter is so small.” Jerome: “And they’ve got a big grassy area to play football and drinking establishments are within walking distance.” Wendy: “Of course my husband would say that.”

Best fundraising event: FARA Energy Ball. Wendy: “I emcee the event. It benefits the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. We bring about 1,000 people to the A La Carte Pavilion. It raises a lot of money.”

Best local celebrity: WFLA radio personality Jack Harris. Jerome: “The guy has been in this market doing the same show since the 1970s. That’s staying power. Although his job is serious, he doesn’t take himself seriously.” Wendy: “He’s at every event and fundraiser. It’s amazing the amount of time he gives to the community.”

Best place to go undercover: LA Fitness in Hyde Park. Wendy: “I teach a spin class four days a week. Most people don’t know it’s me teaching the class. I wear a hat and no makeup and I don’t say my name. I’m sort of incognito.” Jerome: “I took her spin class once eight years ago. I’m still not completely recovered.”

Best place to make friends: Joe Abrahams Fitness Center. Jerome: “It’s a little city-owned gym in Ballast Point with basic equipment. I do better without the fancy stuff. I’ve made a lot of good friends at that gym. I went to a car show with one of the guys I met there.”

Best way to escape without leaving town: Book a weekend at the Don CeSar. Wendy: “People come from all over the world to stay there. Jerome: “It’s like being in the Caribbean, except that when you order a drink they actually bring you the thing you ordered.”

Best takeout pizza: Mario’s Trattoria & Bar. Wendy: “The Rustica pizza is incredible. We have people come in from out of town and request that pizza. It’s two blocks from our house so it’s convenient. I think I’ve even gone in to pick up pizza in a bathing suit and cover-up.”

Best motorhead’s fantasy: Zephyrhills AutoFest. Jerome: “They do it twice a year. It’s a cool local event with hundreds of cars that you can actually sit in. There are no velvet ropes. It’s much more fun than going through a car museum.”

Best feeding frenzy: Ribfest. Jerome: “We’re judges. It’s the best gig ever. It’s rib overload, and if that’s not enough we always buy a bag of beef ribs to take home.” Wendy: “We call them the Flintstone ribs. They’re huge and prehistoric.”

Best place to buy frilly off-camera clothes: Love That on South MacDill Avenue. Wendy: “I tend to go a little over the top on the weekends. I wear a lot of bling and ruffled things because I can’t wear anything too distracting on TV.”

Best burgers and fries: Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Jerome: “They don’t skimp on the meat and the burgers don’t fall apart as you eat them. They’re also on an appropriately sized bun.” Wendy: “I’m from Cleveland and he’s from Illinois, so we both like our meat.”

Best guilty pleasure: Steak ‘n Shake. Jerome: “You’ve gotta eat the fries in the car before you get home. They get cold quick.”

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