MOST Neighborhood News readers recognize how much I enjoy doing our dining reviews, especially when I get to do stories about my favorite local eateries and their restaurateurs.
Case in point: 900º Woodfired Pizza, located in the Shops at Wiregrass, which is owned by someone I’ve really only known since he and a former partner opened it in the mall seven years ago.
Today, long-time New Tampa resident Steve Fallabella is the sole proprietor and Steve is a very hands-on kind of owner (like a certain newspaper editor) and he has an authentic Italian heritage and knowledge of good food honed in New York. Steve says he also enjoys being the “delivery boy” for 900º Woodfired’s growing catering side of the business (more on that below).
Even though I’ve never been a New York sports fan myself (I root for the Rays, Bucs and Lightning), Steve is a lifelong Yankees fan who also is a past president of his subdivision in West Meadows.
And yes, 900º Woodfired, which isn’t a chain and is one of the most successful places to eat at the mall, is a really good restaurant, even though its primary business is still pizza — both New York-style and the 900º woodfired Neapolitan style that gives the place its name.
But, I told Steve that even though a pic of each kind of pizza will likely slip into this article, I really wanted to focus on everything else there is to eat at 900º Woodfired.
I’ve mentioned in previous stories about 900º Woodfired how much I enjoy the caprese appetizer (fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil served on a bed of mixed greens), and the entire Neighborhood News staff recently got to enjoy a variety of other starters, including the fried, cheese-filled raviolis (served with a marinara dipping sauce), the fried calamari (also served with marinara) and the homemade bruschetta.
My favorite appetizer that we all sampled this time around, however, were the oven-baked naked wings. We split an order of ten wings — five with no sauce and five with garlic and parmesan — and they come out crispy outside, moist inside and the garlic parmesan sauce wasn’t overpowering, as it can be at some places.
The wings went down easy with my 23-oz. Peroni Italian beer on draught, and bottled beers and a variety of house wines also are available.
But, my favorites at 900º Woodfired are the pastas, and I’m not talking about baked items like lasagna and baked ziti, although those also are on the menu — and they’re pretty darn tasty, too.
My favorite pasta combination on the menu is the beef-and-veal-filled tortellacci, which are pasta “pockets” (some call them “purses”) filled with ground beef and veal in a classic Bolognese (meat sauce). So good. I also enjoyed the tortellini della casa, which are spinach-and-cheese-filled tortellini in a sautéed tomato sauce with black olives, chopped garlic and fresh spinach.
It’s probably also not too surprising to our readers that I often take advantage of 900º Woodfired’ “Create Your Own Pasta” option. I almost always choose the penne pasta with pesto Genovese sauce, grilled chicken and sautéed spinach. It’s such a huge portion that I usually have it as a side dish with every meal for several days and the penne always comes out al denté (firm), as I prefer it, without having to ask for it that way.
Pizzas, Catering & More!
OK, yes, 900º Woodfired Pizza does have pizzas, too (having won “Best Pizza” in our annual Reader Survey in 2015-16), but I’m going to be honest again — I’m biased as to which style of pizza I prefer. Although the 900º F, wood-burning oven (photo, left) is awesome to watch, I’ve never liked wood (or coal)-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza as much as I do true New York-style options. I’ve never been to Naples, but I grew up on Long Island and lived in Manhattan in my 20s, so the more authentic, the better.
Steve knows that using the best ingredients (never mention the words “Papa” and “John” in the same sentence to me) makes the best pizza and his New York crust is legit and his blended pizza sauce and mozzarella are the real deal, too.
So, I still prefer regular ol’ NY-style cheese pizza the best, but for the pics for this story, I wanted to show 900º Woodfired’s delicious toppings, so the photo above right is a large (16”) NY-style pizza that is half-pepperoni, half-”Mega Meat,” with ‘ronis, sausage, bacon and ham. To no one’s surprise, none of it was left over.
As for the woodfired pizza that gives the place its name, we decided to try a couple of pizzas other than our usual (and super-delicious) Neapolitan-style margherita pizza and went a little exotic.
Several in our office went crazy over the 12” medium-spicy Buffalo chicken pizza, but I was stunned at how much I loved the Ortolano pizza, which is a veggie lover’s dream — a sauceless pie with fresh mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, marinated zucchini and eggplant, artichokes and fresh basil. The pieces of artichoke were huge and a little overpowering, but this is one delicious and unique pizza. And, for those who want or need gluten-free pizza, every pizza on 900º Woodfired’s extensive menu is available as a 10” gluten-free.
“Our newest growth area is catering,” Steve says. “Through the EZcatering Network and word of mouth, our catering has doubled over last year. And our online catering reviews have been awesome. We will soon be publishing a new catering menu, and eventually buying a vehicle dedicated for the catering business.”
Steve is one of those techie people who jumps all over the latest industry trends. In fact, 900º Woodfired was the first Wesley Chapel restaurant to use Ubereats.
“I helped Uber recruit more restaurants in Wesley Chapel, so they would deliver into more subdivisions,” Steve says, “and our delivery business just took off. We’re part of the industry shift to the convenience of dining at home vs. dining out.” ” He also offers online ordering for takeout.
For more information about 900º Woodfired Pizza (28152 Paseo Dr.), which is open every day for lunch & dinner, visit 900DegreesWoodfiredPizza.com or call (813) 527-6940.