Downtown St. Pete restaurant shuffle
Craig Chapman's Grillside Central (437 Central Ave.) and Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen (247 Central Ave.) are closing, with Chappy's Grillside set to open in June at the former site of Bonefish Grill at 5901 Fourth St. N (that Bonefish moved last year to 5062 Fourth St. N.)
At the site of Grillside, Diner 437 will be born, a collaboration between celebrated local chef Domenica Macchia (most recently involved in the temporarily stalled Shackleton's Folly and MJ's, and Redwoods before that) and Greg Pugh, longtime owner of Ringside Cafe on Fourth Street N. The menu will be classic diner fare, but with Macchia's signature sophisticated touch.
Fly Bar opens for brunch
Leslie Shirah's fabulous Fly Bar just got a little more buzz. Sunday marks the inaugural brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $20 per person, with $2 Bloody Marys and live music with the Sunsetters. There will be traditional brunch items along with some Fly faves thrown into the mix. The restaurant is at 1202 N Franklin St.; (813) 275-5000.
Tampa Gastropub will be green restaurant
Chef James Canter, formerly of the MFA Café at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts, has signed on the dotted line with partners John Obediente and Jon Beverfjord to open one of the nation's highest-level LEED-certified restaurants.
Tampa Gastropub is slated to open at the end of 2009 at 512 E Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa. Canter, one of the bay area's most talented chefs and a major proponent of local and sustainable cooking, aims to bring serious gastropub food to Tampa, but with a twist: The restaurant will have solar panels, a hydroponic garden, cistern tanks for water conservations and other "green" elements.
Beach Snoballs in Treasure Island
This seems like just the place to go as the humidity starts to creep up. Teeny-tiny Beach Snoballs is in Treasure Island next to Middle Grounds in the old Conery Building at 10927 Gulf Blvd. It opened in March and serves 40 flavors of real New Orleans-style snoballs (stuffed ones, ones topped with sweet condensed milk, ice cream, fresh fruit, candies, and more, with sugar-free flavors for diabetics).
Owners Kimberly (Mama Sno) and James (Daddy Sno) hail from New Orleans and wanted to see the snoballs from their homeland right on the beach.
Chris Ponte, Melting Pot team up
Chef Chris Ponte's new project is called Peel, a collaboration between him and the owners of the Melting Pot. The first restaurant is scheduled to open in August, its location somewhat mysterious but in the Twin Lakes area near Lowry Park in Tampa.
The idea is fast casual, everything under $10, but chef-driven and artisanal, with gourmet pizzas, panini, salads and some of Ponte's more famous items (that molten chocolate cake, the potato and truffle oil pizza). Although far from completed, Ponte says the look of the place will be contemporary, with lots of stainless steel and black and white with punches of green. The idea, Ponte says, is that in this economy people are looking to save by eating at fast-casual spots, but they want the food to reflect a greater sophistication than many of the established fast-casual franchises.
Divino Italian to open in Clearwater
Veteran Italian restaurateur Piero Caramella and partner Dmitry Lisovitskiy are opening up an authentic Italian restaurant in downtown Clearwater. Called Divino, the restaurant is modeled after an Italian piazza with café-style style dining around a fountain downstairs as well as fine dining on the balconies overlooking the restaurant. According to Caramella (who owned Italian restaurants in Cardiff, Wales, for 30 years), the tentative opening is June 25. The restaurant is at 22 N Fort Harrison Ave.; (727) 906-7602.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic