The Great Spiedini – A Family Affair Bringing a Unique Flavor to Westchase
Deborah Bostock-Kelley (author)
Location(s): The Great Spiedini
Having launched in August 2014, The Great Spiedini Family Grill is still in its infancy. Co-owner Rick Swartwood’s vision for the restaurant however is decades old.
As a child, Rick grew up enjoying the Italian goodness of Spiedies and as early as his late teens, even planned out the concept of how this Triple Cities’ (Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott area of upstate New York) ethnic favorite might be appreciated in other areas of the country.
The term "spiedie" comes from the Italian spiedo meaning spit or spiedini referring to cubes or balls of meat cooked on a skewer.
Rick explained, “In The Triple Cities, a Spiedie is a sandwich made with flame-grilled cubed meat on skewers that is served with a slice of Italian bread.”
Though a Spiedie is a recipe that sounds simple, it requires the perfect marinade, a certain quality of meat, and just the right amount of time on the searing flame to make it flawless.
After relocating to the Tampa Bay area in 1999 Rick and his wife Karen found what all of those who left the friendly valleys of upstate New York before them - no Spiedies. And with that, the quest for the perfect Spiedie marinade began.
After years of trials (and numerous tweaks based on feedback from family and friends), the Swartwood Spiedie marinade began to take shape. That culinary seed that had been planted decades ago in upstate New York had found root in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Having been urged on by those who had become familiar with his Spiedies and with newly found time on his hands, Rick and his son Tony, who has a food-service background, began talking about what it would take to bring Spiedies to the Tampa Bay area.
“We knew we had to test it out and do some sort of proof of concept before going too far,” Rick said. So in January 2013 The Swartwood’s began introducing Spiedies to the Tampa Bay area at Farmers Markets and music events using the name Rick had in his back pocket for years, The Great Spiedini.
At one of the larger events, the John’s Pass Seafood Festival, Rick’s personal favorite, the Shrimp Spiedini, took second place. “It was the first time we had ever used the marinade on seafood” said Rick.
That win, coupled with the public’s consistent positive reception, gave the Swartwood’s confidence to take the concept to the next, more permanent step.
Combining the human resources skills of his wife, culinary talents of his son, and Rick’s operations and financial background, the Swartwood’s began the arduous process of planning the launch of restaurant.
After careful consideration, the location in the Westchase Shopping Plaza, 9648 West Linebaugh Avenue was chosen, partly because they were inspired by the successes of the two other well-known establishments founded there – Burger 21 and World of Beer.
Eighteen months from hopeful vision to brick and mortar reality, Rick and family opened The Great Spiedini Family Grill in Westchase.
Here, guests can enjoy traditional Triple Cities Spiedies or a deluxe version that can be jazzed up with one of eight themed finishes as well as your choice of an Amoroso roll, a wheat wrap, or having your sandwich plated over a bed of Romaine lettuce.
If a patron chooses the traditional Spiedie – either pork or chicken – he will find himself enjoying the most flavorful, moistest and tender perfectly grilled cubes of skewered meat. Though the deluxe choices range from savory favorites such as the Greek, the Philly, the Buffalo, and the Marsala, I recommend you try the traditional first. And, make sure you eat the Italian bread that sops up the marinade deliciousness.
They can also savor Spiedini Marinated Options including the restaurant’s signature Steak Sandwich with mushrooms, cherry peppers, onions, and American cheese to his mouthwatering Shrimp Spiedini.
The Great Spiedini’s menu doesn’t exclude the vegetarian. One of the most popular sandwiches is their Spiedini Marinated Portobello that is grilled and topped with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, alfalfa sprouts, and pesto sauce and served on a toasted ciabatta roll.
If a guest chooses to order Rick’s favorite option, the Shrimp Spiedini, be prepared to never order anything else but that meal again and again. This scrumptious appetizer features six succulent shrimp, freckled with pepper and other spices nestled a top a spring mix and decorated with a lemon.
Take a moment to breathe in the wonderful aroma before indulging in this delicious seared seafood. Your taste buds will be treated to a flavorful marinade – that Rick will never reveal – with a short-lasting bite of heat.
“The secret is in the marinade,” said Rick. “It brings out incredible flavors in our offerings and we add just a dab of heat to serve as a pleasant little side effect.”
Other non-meat options include salads like the Strawberry Mango Kale Salad with kale, strawberries, mango, sliced almonds, avocado and feta cheese, complemented by a mango vinaigrette or the Caprese Tomato Stack with sweet yellow tomatoes, red tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh chopped basil topped with a vinaigrette made from vinegar and oils from fellow Westchase merchant, The Olive Tree.
The Great Spiedini also offers deep-fried chicken wings made 5 different ways – Naked, BBQ, Medium, Hot, or for the brave soul, Ass-Troid, with a Garlic Parmesan offering on the way. In a short time, the Great Spiedini wings have already been dubbed, “the best in Westchase” and to some, the best in Tampa Bay.
The Swartwood’s are excited to introduce Spiedie sandwiches and their Spiedini Marinated counterparts to a new state and brings a little bit of home to Westchase’s Triple Cities transplants and seasonal snowbirds.
On January 24, The Great Spiedini will be hosting a mixer for Spiedie Lovers “from upstate New York to Tampa Bay.” Not only will the mixer feature Spiedies, but also a classic favorite side dish – salt potatoes smothered in butter and garnished with parsley and thyme. And let’s not forget the upstate favorites, Genesee Cream Ale and Red Cat Wine.
Besides bringing a unique Italian immigrant flavor profile to the Westchase community, Rick promises a family friendly atmosphere, a well balanced kids menu, along with a mix of music and sports and “the nicest patio in Westchase.”
“The Great Spiedini is kind of melting pot in its own right,” explained Rick. “Mom and Dad can come in on Saturday and enjoy a meal and sip on a glass of wine while the kids hang out in the Bounce House. We also have live entertainment on Saturday’s as well as seven TV’s that are tuned to follow the Tampa and New York sports scenes, particularly Buffalo and Syracuse.”
Monday is Kid’s Day at The Great Spiedini, followed by Traditional Tuesday, Wing Wednesday and Burger Thursday. Friday and Saturday are open to chef’s discretion and Sunday guests can enjoy specials on buckets of their favorite bottled beer and wings. The Great Spiedini also features a full catering menu for events large or small.
The Swartwood’s long-term goal is to develop franchises for their unique brand of offerings. But for now, Rick is more than satisfied with working hard at The Great Spiedini and enjoying time in his family business and taking it one step at a time The Great Spiedini is located at 9648 West Linebaugh Avenue in Westchase. They are open Mon. – Fri. 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. and Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. The patio is pet-friendly and the restaurant features Happy Hour – 50% Off Beer and Wine Mon. – Thur. 5:00 p.m. – 8:00p.m. with an early Friday Happy Hour beginning at 4 p.m. For additional info please call (813) 749-7522 or visit www.TheGreatSpiedini.com.