A couple of years ago, I started my job as a paralegal with an attorney based in St. Petersburg and when you are the only two individuals in the office, you take every opportunity to go out for lunch. A frequent visit of ours was Ciccio's California Cuisine. Located on 4th Street and 37th Avenue North, Ciccio's was a very convenient location that provided healthy and affordable lunch options for us.
Since moving on to another position on the other side of the bridge where I live, I hadn't come up with the time to visit this location again. It wasn't until I was out at another Ciccio's Restaurant Group location, The Lodge, that I heard from my former boss that our favorite lunch spot had undergone a complete renovation. With some gracious help from the owner, a dinner date was made so I could see the changes and try the new Cali Flats on Two$ Tuesdays!
Arriving on a rainy day as I did doesn't do much to damper your mood, or make for a dreary meal at the new Ciccio's; it's nearly impossible with the multiple colors, brilliant lights and clean layout.
On Tuesdays after 5pm, Ciccio's offers a nice $2 menu consisting of such items as beers, sangrias, Cali Flats and select sides. Cali Flats are smaller tastings of their bowls on top of an open-faced grilled tortilla. With nine different Cali Flats to choose from, I decided on a White Sangria to sip on while looking over our options.
Refreshing and light, with apple and sprinkled cinnamon, this White Sangria is incredibly unique and unlike any sangria I've tasted elsewhere.
While all of the Cali Flats sounded great, we ultimately settled on three that came recommended by the staff and owner: Mexican, Gigante and my favorite, Citrus.
The Mexican Cali Flat is made with chopped chicken breast, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream (I opted for it on the side), cheddar cheese and crispy lettuce. With a slightly spicy kick, the Mexican is universally enjoyed.
The Gigante is made with avocado glazed buffalo chicken breast, crispy onions, pickled jalapenos, diced celery, lettuce, crumbled blue cheese and Lime Ceasar dressing. Named after one of the owners, Jeff, the Gigante is probably something I've never have tried if it wasn't his namesake. Not only am I usually not a blue cheese fan, but the idea of anything "pickled" isn't particularly appealing to me. Little did I expect the burst of flavor I got from this flat and even though I know how great Ciccio's food is, I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed this choice.
You'd think that with the strong ingredients in this flat there would be a flavor that would overpower everything else and yet, I'm pleased to report that this is not the case. A perfect blend, I'd recommend the Gigante to the worst critic and expect a positive review.
My favorite of the night, the Citrus Cali Flat's success can be contributed to the drizzled citrus aioli, which is pretty much the perfect sauce. The Citrus, aside from the aioli, is also made with chopped chicken breast (or you can choose to have seared rare tuna instead), avocado, shaved red onion, lettuce, tomatoes and diced cucumbers.
Throughout our Cali Flats tastings, we received two drinks to share.
The Cali-Jito is made with wine based rum, fresh mint, sugar, soda and muddled lime.
The Cali-Rita is made with Agave wine fermented with fresh citrus juices.
Having wine based liquor created a slightly different taste than the norm. However, I loved it! I felt like I was enjoying a lighter and healthier version.
Next, with bellies slowly filling, we put in a couple more orders: the Filet Mignon Quesadillas and the Tuna Poki bowl for a taste.
The Filet Mignon Quesadillas are composed of strips of filet mignon, black beans, roasted poblanos, cilantro, spicy corn guacamole, pepper jack cheese and sour cream. The filet pieces were tender and juicy and the other ingredients blended well together.
Lastly, a Water bowl tasting was in order. We chose to try the Tuna Poki bowl.
I certainly can't say that I know what each of these ingredients are, but nonetheless, the Tuna Poki consists of charred ahi tuna tossed with fresh minced ginger, cilantro and a spicy garlic Rayu ponzu sauce served over jicama and cucumber tossed with yuzu tobikko and sesame seeds atop chilled Asian noodles. The chilled noodles were shocking at first as I've never tried anything like it, but the flavor of the tuna was fabulous and I liked the nice blend of everything.
I very much recommend a trip to Ciccio's St. Pete, especially on $2 Tuesdays!
A special thanks to Ciccio's owners and staff for a great night out!
For more information about Ciccio's, including what they are all about and the healthy choices available, check out my blog post about the SoHo location: Ciccio's/Water.