Group courting Slow Food
A group of Tampa Bay area chefs and other foodies have begun the process of starting a local chapter of the Slow Food organization. The international organization, which has 130 chapters across the United States, supports and advocates for local foodways.
Among those on the organizing committee are chefs Fabrizio Schenardi, Pelagia; Chad Johnson, SideBern's; Felix Piedra, Vizcaya; and Massimo Patano, Massimo's Eclectic Fine Dining. Also working on the committee are Gail Eggeman, manager of the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg, and Mary Kathryn Rains, local health coordinator for HealthCorps: Educating the Student Body, among others.
There are nine Slow Food chapters in Florida, and the closest to Tampa Bay are in Orlando and Sarasota. Local chapters host events and dinners that celebrate farms and handcrafted food. This week, the Orlando chapter is sponsoring an "Eat Local Week" and hosting dinners with area farmers.
For more information on Slow Food, go to slowfoodusa.org. The organizing committee will soon announce information about how the public can get involved.
BellaBrava to move
Mike Harting and his BellaBrava partners inked a deal on a new plan to leave their 515 Central Ave. location and move to the 200 block of Beach Drive NE, near St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront. According to Harting, BellaBrava will take over Cherie's Eklectica corner space, plus adjacent Prudential Gower Realty, Ambria's Gallery of Wearable Art (which will move elsewhere on the block) and an apartment upstairs (to use as the restaurant's office). The new space will be 4,000 square feet, with room for 150 seats inside and 60 seats outside, with a similarly sized bar but more bar tables, with a tentative opening in August. The reason for the move? Says Harting, "As I said to my partners, I think BellaBrava has seven of the 10 criteria it needs to be a successful brand. And the three it's missing: location, location, location."
• A late valentine from the Darden folks, Seasons 52 will open on Feb. 15 in Tampa's WestShore Plaza. The menu includes seasonally inspired healthful cuisine topped off by super smart "mini indulgences" desserts, live music nightly in the piano bar and an adventurous international selection of 100 wines, 60 by the glass. Also, there's complimentary valet parking. To make reservations, call (813) 286-1152.
• Nicholas Volpe and partner Kamala Chetty aim to open Gallery Rasika on March 1 at the site of the defunct L'Olivier Cabaret in Ybor City. The concept is "Indian fusion," according to Volpe, which means Mediterranean spices, Latin flair and Indian fundamentals. He and Chetty have a marketing and public relations firm in Ybor called O1Organic, as well as an art gallery. While declining to name names, Volpe did say the chef they've hired has worked at Cafe Dufrain and Mise en Place and just returned from six months in Lima, Peru.
New pizza concept
Chris Jones has started an interesting new business locally called Open Hearth Pizza. He and friends built a mobile wood-fired pizza oven that he uses for farmers markets, events and private functions. He moved here recently from Vermont, hoping to cook authentic, thin-crust pizzas year-round, a fun idea for a party. For more information, call (727) 412-4844.
Laura Reiley and Janet K. Keeler, Times staff writers