Primi Ristorante Italiano

From Our Editors Groupon


With its plates of homemade pasta, sautéed marinated chicken, and seafood dishes lit by streaks of neon and sided with martinis, Primi - under new ownership - evokes the image of both a homey Italian restaurant and a swanky nightclub. That's because executive chef Tony Macaroni spent years not only mastering the cuisine of his native Italy, but also working in the kitchens of high-class hotels cooking for celebrities such as Evander Holyfield, Scott L. Schwartz, and Bob Newhart. Together with sous-chef and baking specialist Kenneth Kopcsik, Chef Macaroni whips up elegantly plated dishes such as a thin-sliced tenderloin carpaccio, wild-mushroom ravioli in sage butter reduction, and a slowly braised lamb shank served with broccoli and homemade croquette. An extravagant selection of wines from the Americas and Europe complement the flavors of mussels in garlic butter while four-course chef's table events allow guests to experience the luxury of having their own personal chef.

Photo Slideshow: Primi Ristorante Italiano, St. Petersburg





At age 10, while other kids were riding bikes and playing tag, Tony Macaroni was in the kitchen of his family's Brooklyn home learning the art of making hand-crafted mozzarella.

His father, his instructor, was teaching the finer points of cooking -- a tradition common among Italian men and their sons.

Fast forward 30 years to today and you'll find Executive Chef Macaroni (yes, that is his family name) working and pulling curd into soft shapes of fresh mozzarella at Primi Ristorante Italiano in downtown St Petersburg.

Macaroni and sous chef Kenneth Kopcsik work daily to make every menu item from scratch and use all local fish and produce, in addition to chicken, beef, veal and lamb.

Moving from the Garden State six years ago, Macaroni says he stays in Tampa Bay to take advantage of Clearwater's white sand beaches, Ybor City's lively night-life and Downtown St Pete's fabulous art scene.

83 Degrees Managing Photographer Julie Branaman stepped into Macaroni's kitchen for a step-by-step look at the art of mozzarella making. Watch the photo slideshow as Chef Tony explains how to make the delicate cheese by hand.

Seminole Heights' American Legion Post 111 now hosts takeout concept run by Chef Tony Macaroni

And he's got a food truck on the way

 By Jenna Rimensnyder

Food & Drink Editor Creative Loafing  Oct. 23,  2020 9AM

This year, American Legion Seminole Post 111 snagged the Best of the Bay critic’s pick award for “Best Unlikely Venue” when it comes to attracting an eclectic crowd to the bar and hosting live musical performances. Staying true to its title, the Post is now home to a gastropub run by Chef Tony Macaroni.

With a personality as big as his name, Chef Tony took over the kitchen last month and has been slinging Italian American eats alongside bar food classics.

CL linked with Chef Tony Macaroni over the phone to get the details on his culinary endeavors in Tampa Bay.

“We are doing 5-star cooking in a little place,” the chef said while one speakerphone while his hands are busy prepping fresh gnocchi for the day’s service.

When he’s not in American Legion’s kitchen, he’s doing the shopping for the week at local grocery stores, plotting his next business venture and competing in cooking competitions around the country.

“This is a scratch kitchen,” he says proudly. From mozzarella to pasta, Tony Macaroni says he’s one of the only chefs in Tampa Bay still cooking the old school way and not cutting corners when it comes to quality and technique (although, truth be told, Seminole Heights is home to many chefs cooking with integrity).

The gastropub’s menu consists of breakfast sandwiches (served all day) ranging from $2.50-$4. Appetizers consist of bar favorites like french fries, onion rings, fried mozzarella, chicken wings and fried chicken strips. If you’re going the slightly elevated route, opt for fried shrimp and french fries of fried calamari. There are also a handful of pasta options like chicken parmigiana, shrimp penne vodka, fettuccine Alfredo as well as spaghetti and meatballs. If your diet needs a little something green, there are a few salad options to choose from. Diners can also grab heroes served by the half or whole, sandos like BLTs and turkey club or a personal pizza.  By the way, the dessert lineup includes cannolis, deep-fried Oreos and chocolate cate.

These are your ordering options: order on-site and wait in the Legion’s lounge with a cocktail or brew with a pager for Chef Tony to prepare your dish, call in for pickup, or have food delivered through GrubHub or UberEats. All meals are for takeout service only, 

Chef Tony Macaroni is working in the American Legion Seminole Post 111 kitchen—located at 6918 N. Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights—11 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. 

As if the chef isn’t busy enough, he is launching a food truck, Chef Tony Macaroni and Co., next month serving up authentic American-Italian cuisine. That means pasta, fried calzones, cannolis and whatever else he can whip up with limited space and unlimited imagination. 

“It’s going to be an old school Italian restaurant on wheels," he said.