Anyone lamenting the lack of authentic Italian restaurants in Tampa has a delicious new choice in Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy. This unique Ybor City restaurant not only serves authentic Italian cuisine they do it with a side of fun.

Cheesy's comes complete with a downstairs speakeasy in a Tampa neighborhood built on secrets since 1885. Upstairs Cheezy's calls itself an "Italian Bistro," but bistro might undersell what they are serving. The dishes are as nuanced as any you'd see in a highfalutin' joint with white tablecloths, and they speak to anyone with a love of cuisine labored over by Nonas and Babbos from the old country. At this bistro, you find thick, rich sauces and freshly imported cheeses, scratch-made pasta, and meats that are fried, grilled, and seasoned lovingly with time and care. It's the perfect place for anyone hungry for authentic Italian cuisine in Tampa.

Jumbo shells and Chicken Parmigiana in a "Princess" sauce with multiple baked cheeses.

Chef-Owner Jamie DeCrisci brings a depth of experience on all sides of the restaurant business. After college at Georgia State, he joined Hilton Hotels in the kitchen, eventually finding his way to the Ritz-Carlton management program. From there he went to the business side, opening Flanagan's Irish Pub in Atlanta, a brand he eventually grew to four locations.

Making his way to Tampa, DeCrisi found himself working in prominent kitchens in Tampa Bay and eventually owner of That’s Amore Restaurant on Harbor Island. It did not take Jamie long after arriving in Tampa to begin thinking about opening his own place what he wanted was a place in a city with a deep cultural heritage. Ybor City was a perfect fit!

"I wanted something like an Italian pub" says DeCrisci, who speaks four languages, including Italian. "I want it to be fun. I wanted to have games, I wanted to have pizza, I wanted to have TV's, I wanted to have paninis, I wanted to have quality food, and music, and dancing, I want it to feel like we are always celebrating something".

Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy does just that; they serve authentic Italian cuisine with a side order of fun! You can choose a specialty pasta or why not get creative and pick your noodle and sauce! The Pappardelle Bolognese was fresh and delicious, and the Jumbo Shells and Chicken Parmigiana smothered in a "Princess" sauce (half Alfredo-half Pomodoro) is wonderfully addictive. If you've enjoyed the fare of Little Italy neighborhoods in the northeast corridor of the U.S, you'll recognize the same flavors and fusions in Cheezy's.

Cheezy's Caprese

The lack of pretense at this restaurant in Tampa stands out. There's a 70-inch TV in front of couches making Cheezy's one of the ideal places in Tampa to watch football, and slushy machines for both white and red sangrias as well as a rum-and-lemonade concoction. There's Golden Tee, pinball, and a TouchTunes box where the customers can pick the music. There's even a soup and salad station, complimentary with any entree, where patrons help themselves to insalada or zuppa. 

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The upstairs of Cheezy's is for dining, but the downstairs is for wining... dancing, music, and good times. It's a speakeasy, a hidden booze haunt reminiscent of those found during prohibition, DeCrisi, and his crew spared no expense in making the space feel authentic. 

"I found out that speakeasies were fun places. People went there to drink, to dance, to gamble, to have fun," says DeCrisci. "Not to be exclusive, and with foie gras, and charge double the prices with no music and stuff. So that's how we came up with the concept."

Still-evolving, Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy plays Sinatra-style classics and jazz a couple of nights a week, but don't dress up; it's designed for dancing and getting together.  Retro dance parties are planned every Friday and Saturday night. So if you love throwback 80s and 90s music, grab your squad and head down for great old school dancing and fun at this hip speakeasy in Tampa's historic Ybor City.  And remember, you must get the secret word to go into Cheezy's Italian Bistro and Speakeasy! (No worries though, it's easy!)

"Fun food, but in a nice atmosphere that's not too stuffy."   -  Chef-Owner Jamie DeCrisci

Ready for a few secrets about this converted church basement? First, there is a VIP area where guests can see into the lobby, but the denizens waiting to get in can't see you! As for how to get in, we'll let you find out for yourself... but you might want to have a phone handy when you arrive. 

"Between Rock Brothers Brewing CompanyThe Florida Cane Distillery, the area here is reinventing itself," says DeCrisci of his 9th Avenue home. "That was the attraction to come here. The history and the mystique. When I came across this building, it was almost a no-brainer. The outside is a church, but you come in I was able to redo this place in my image."

That image is laid-back and exudes a relaxed vibe, but with bites and booze that will wow any foodie! Cheezy's is a perfect fit for those looking for authentic Italian food in Tampa, and a fun night in a place that aims to celebrate life daily with music, games, and dancing.  Cheezy's is a great place to host your next private party or to spend a fun, intimate evening with a friend.

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