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Jay Luigi is quaint in size, but bountiful in flavor. This exquisite restaurant along the sprawling 4th Street North corridor is hard to miss with its vibrant Vitale Bros mural out front. An intimate indoor dining area proceeds what appears to be a private oasis. Walls of greenery submerge Jay Luigi guests in a garden of Italian delights. The restaurant’s naturally fermented wild yeast Roman and Neapolitan pizzas, fresh pastas, and personal plays on traditional Italian small plates make it the next big thing in St. Pete.
The Ciccio Restaurant Group (Fresh Kitchen, Better Byrd, Sweet Soul, etc.) group formally partnered with Forbici Modern Italian co-founder Jason Brunetti and his team to launch its new Italian dining division. Jay Luigi is the first restaurant to come from the collaboration.
Jay Luigi meticulously sources ingredients for each dish
Named after Brunetti, of Tampa’s Forbici and New York’s famed Brunetti Pizza, as well as Luis Flores, Executive Chef of CRG, Jay Luigi blends modern and traditional Italian cuisine in an inviting, casual setting with innovative, healthy ingredients.
To start, treat yourself to the dazzling emerald green broccolini. This appetizer features crispy broccoli covered in a savory cashew vinaigrette with generous doses of garlic and lemon to add a bit of zest to the harvest. If you’re appetite is as insatiable as mine, one appetizer simply won’t do. The most popular starter at Jay Luigi is the Burrata and Roman Garlic Stick. The dish is complete with a crumbled pistachio that offers an ultra satisfying texture, and red pepper pesto for those who crave a (gentle) flavor.
Pizza as an art form in St. Pete
Let’s not mince words here, the coup de gras of dishes at Jay Luigi is the pizza. Diners can select from two styles of pizza — Pizza al Taglio, a Roman-style pizza made famous by Brunetti at Forbici, as well as CRG’s spin on a naturally fermented New York-style pie. There’s also a fabulous gluten-free crust options for diners with intolerances and allergies.
That gluten-free crust is one of the best I’ve had in the entire Tampa Bay region. It’s crunchy, holds up under the weight of toppings, but isn’t so firm that you can’t implement that classic New York fold. A gluten-free pizza is perfect to share between two guests, but, if you eat like me, you’ll eat an entire one all on your own.
The patio is a secret garden on 4th Street
The Margie, a Pizza NY-politana pie, should be number one on your must try list. A thick crust, sensational portions of ricotta, house-made sausage, roasted pepper, caramelized onion and ricotta salata complete this divine pizza. The sausage has a bit of spice to it which is balanced perfectly by the onion.
Take a walk on the Romana side with the Norma. You’re looking at a thick tank of a pizza carrying garlic roasted tomato, crispy eggplant, spicy Calabrian oil, and basil. These old school grandma slices with meticulously sourced ingredients will have you feeling like you’re dining with your Nonna.
Hungry for more? In addition to pizza, Jay Luigi serves up hand-made pastas, unique plays on traditional Italian small plates, cauliflower rice bowls and fresh salads, all with a strong focus on healthy, fresh ingredients with an emphasis on plant-based options.
Handmade pastas are the star at Jay Luigi
The Limoncello has us convinced that pasta can also be dessert. This extraordinarily fresh take on the classic Italian dish rigatoni covered in fermented lemon with ricotta, pickled chili, and grana padano. It’s essentially summer on a plate, and perfect for those wanting to indulge in something refined, with a St. Pete twist.
Jay Luigi’s drunken mushroom is excelsior, and a dish that took me by surprise. The ingredients: Casarecce, tomato, white wine, cremini, mushroom, garlic, chili flake, mushroom broth, grana padano. The sensational mushroom broth complements the chili flake, and brings out the best of the Sicilian casarecce.
Available for pick up, and delivery in the ‘Burg
I always want dessert, and the bright Limoncello cake is the perfect bookend to a meal at Jay Luigi. The addictively moist sponge bursts with lemon zest that is wonderfully enhanced with fresh blueberries.
Follow Jay Luigi on Instagram to keep up with the latest menu offerings. Visit the restaurant’s website for a full breakdown of the menu. The restaurant all just added free valet service. Online ordering for delivery and pick up is also available.
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