Restaurant: Malio's Prime Steakhouse
Address: Sykes Building, 400 N. Ashley Blvd., Tampa
Recommended by: Monty Weigel, president and CEO of Northstar Bank. Weigel enjoys the convenience and value of Malio's, which is located 14 floors below his office.
Reservations: Not required, but recommended during busy hours.
Parking: The restaurant offers validated parking for the parking garage on North Ashley Street, but guests may elect to valet park on the north side of the restaurant, for the walk from the garage is a bit long and currently littered with Occupy Wall Street protesters.
One-hour lunch test: Lunch took just less than an hour. It took approximately 15 minutes to receive the entree after it was ordered. Garlic bread, which the menu states is made fresh daily, was provided for free and holds over a grumbling stomach until the meal arrives.
Staff sincerity: The servers wear black, matching the darker surroundings. Our server instructed us on his favorite meals and was quick with with a joke soaked in an Italian accent.
See and be seen: The crowd is made up mostly of business professionals. Patrons were either wearing suits or sport coats and most were in groups larger than four. Derek Iavarone, owner of Malio's, has several autographed photos of prominent Tampa figures, including one of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, and says there is nary a time when a shaker and mover can't be spotted. The steakhouse is said to be a favorite hangout of Yankees players during spring training.
Privacy: The restaurant is made up of two tiers. The upper tier, which has smaller tables by windows overlooking the Tampa waterfront, offers a private setting; the tables are farther apart and columns separate the window-adjacent tables to keep sensitive conversations unnoticed. The lower tier offers several booths at the front that offer solace for those who would rather see than be seen. The lower tier also contains several tables in the open that sit closer together than those on the second tier. If privacy is your aim, shoot for the upper deck.
Ambiance: The setting exudes a modern style with classic overtones. The white tablecloths are reminiscent of a cafe in Little Italy, while the smooth jazz ringing in the background and modern construction give the restaurant a youthful glow. The glow is a metaphorical one — the restaurant is dimly lit, so if you plan to do paper work on your lunch hour, look elsewhere.
Food: Iavarone describes Malio's as a classic steakhouse with an Italian twist. The menu features several salads, steaks and pastas. Entrees hover around $12 and salads at $10. For the more adventurous palate, Malio's has a blackened tuna sashimi wrap that was delicious and affordable at a price of $14. Lunch for two was about $40.
Ownership: Derek Iavarone is the sole owner of the steakhouse, which he says is successful because of its name's longevity in the Tampa Bay area. His father, Malio, opened the original location on South Dale Mabry. After receiving a generous deal on the location where it currently stands, the family moved Malio's into the Sykes building in 2007.
Review date: October 2011