Outside Ballyhoo Grill, a sign made to look like a colorful speedboat beckons to passersby, hinting at the smorgasbord of fresh seafood to be found within. A tropical theme permeates the space, with live music setting a relaxing mood and nautical decor—such as a surfboard, an alligator head, and a stuffed and mounted kraken—adorning the walls. Guests dine on surf 'n' turf plates, fish tacos, pulled pork, and burgers as they share friendly conversation and clink cocktail glasses and mugs of draft beer.
During World War I, Greek immigrant Louis Pappas served in the Army as a personal chef to General John Pershing. To give the hungry general some extra nutrition, Louis began adding scoops of potato salad to his traditional greek salads. When Louis returned to the United States, he opened up his own restaurant, Louis Pappas Riverside Café, where he would re-create this signature dish using fresh produce from his own ranch in Tarpon Springs.
Today, Louis Pappas's grandson continues his grandfather's old Florida family tradition at Pappas Ranch. There, he and his kitchen serve up a new menu of fresh seafood, poultry, sandwiches, street tacos, hand-cut steaks, and barbecue dishes whose "family flair" has been lauded by Metromix Tampa Bay. They continue to scoop savory housemade potato salad into their internationally renowned Louis Pappas Famous greek salad, tossing it in massive bowls that serve as many as four diners. Bartenders dole out glasses of locally brewed craft beers and wine or mix cocktails and martinis at the full center bar with flat-screen TVs.
The restaurant's decor channels that of the original Pappas family ranch. In the dining room, spacious booths are surrounded by rustic wooden walls, and outside is a covered outdoor patio.
Bill Sioutis founded the first Gondolier location in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1974 as a place for families to gather and enjoy a rich menu of Italian and Greek specialties. Decades later, the traditional and white pizzas still use homemade dough made fresh daily and come covered with tasty toppings, such as barbecue chicken, eggplant, and artichoke. That same dough puffs up to form calzones stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, and various toppings. Ovens bubble cheese over baked pasta dishes ranging from lasagna and ravioli to spaghetti, and Hellenic recipes rear their heads in the form of gyros, chicken souvlaki, and greek bruschetta, a blend of tomatoes, feta, kalamata olives, and drachmas.
Chefs at La Casa Della Pasta embellish pastas, gnocchi, and desserts made in-house with handfuls of imported Italian ingredients, including eggplant and mozzarella. As owner Enrique Tangari told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011, "I import everything, flour, water, tomatoes, cheeses … to make any kind of pasta dish you want, on the menu or not." His commitment to imported flavor also extends to the restaurant's drink menu, which features wines made from such traditional Italian varietals as pinot grigio, sangiovese, and nebbiolo, as well as beers with suspiciously small amounts of fermented grape juice.
Wining and dining yourself is easy at Clearwater, whose eclectic menu will mollify even the grumpiest of your taste buds. Begin a romantic dinner for yourself and your cute hitchhiker with a starter of brandied shrimp ($9), hummus and grilled pita bread ($7), or a salsa trio with tortilla chips ($6). Ask your server to whip out the award-winning wine list and double-team your main course with a glass of Borsao ($7) and a chipotle chicken quesadilla ($9); a pairing of pizza margherita ($9) and Vicolo pinot grigio ($7); or, in celebration of the day you saw your first squid, a glass of Marcel Martin Tetê de Cuvée Brut Cremant ($10) and a specialty cinnamon-apple and brie quesadilla ($10). Stop in during the daily happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and say goodbye to the sad and perplexed hours with two-for-one house wine, or drop by on the second and fourth Friday of every month for a free wine tasting.