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Monday, Sep 15, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Super Bowl brings back memories of gizzards and special sauce

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Of course, the big question this weekend is what’s it going to be — mini Cubans or maybe a few pizzas (with anchovies) or more likely a couple of buckets of wings with nuclear hot sauce?

Personally, I’ve got a hankering for some gizzards from the world’s greatest gizzard place, right here in Tampa, but I’m afraid I’m out of luck.

But there was a time ...

It goes back a few years. This year we get to watch the game on the tube, while those who have shelled out hundreds of dollars for Super Bowl tickets will sit inside a dreary stadium in New Jersey in near-freezing temperatures. The closest we will get to cold weather will be when we hit the fridge for more beer.

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It was different back in 1991 when the Super Bowl returned to Tampa for a second appearance, bringing in visitors from Buffalo, N.Y., and New York City for a game most remembered for Whitney Houston and The Florida Orchestra’s version of the national anthem.

I remember it for trying to be too cute in a column.

As usual we were going bonkers with our coverage and I thought it might be fun to do a little piece on Tampa’s famous gizzard stands and restaurants, writing that people came to Tampa from around the world to sample our gizzards.

Nobody would swallow that, I thought. So I was a little surprised when I got a call from a visitor from New York down for the game and he wanted me to guide him to the place where I thought he might get the best gizzards.

Stalling on the phone, I thought for a minute. The only place I could even think he could get gizzards was the Palios Brothers’ small restaurant in South Tampa where you could get great fried chicken and shrimp baskets and lots of conversation with John and George Palios.

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Anyhow, I told him to drive to Palios’ place, and then I hung up and made a quick call to John Palios to tell him of my dilemma.

“Not to worry,” he said, after I said I would come by and pay for the guy’s gizzards after he left.

A couple of hours later, I drove to the small restaurant on South MacDill and the first thing I saw was the banner draped across the entrance proclaiming the “World’s Greatest Gizzards.”

Inside at each table was a bottle of hot sauce relabeled “Gizzard Sauce.” John Palios showed me the huge platter the brothers had loaded up with gizzards, garnished with parsley and a little American flag on top.

“He was overwhelmed,” John said, adding that the man promised that if the Giants ever made it to the Super Bowl again in Tampa he would bring all of his friends to this great house of gizzards.

It turns out the guy ran a cookie store, and a few weeks later a barrel of the man’s cookies showed up.

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But that was all 23 years ago. Palios is no more; John Palios passed away several years ago; the restaurant was torn down and replaced with a bank.

We’ll sit around the tube Sunday, watching the game and the commercials, and probably chew on a few wings. But I’ll be thinking about those gizzards from Tampa’s most famous gizzard house.

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