LUTZ — Chris Fuller is determined to be his own boss.
At only 27, the entrepreneur from Carrollwood has tried his hand at a series of business ventures from Internet marketing to hookah bars in the Dominican Republic.
Having worked in restaurants since he was a teenager as everything from a dishwasher to a general manager, it made sense for him to try opening his own.
Along with his mom and co-owner Sandy Fuller of Odessa, Fuller opened the Gathering Place, a wood-fired pizza place on N Florida Avenue in March.
"I've always wanted to have a wood-fired oven; the pizzas that come out of there are phenomenal," Fuller said.
A native of Tampa, he grew up traveling back and forth to the Dominican Republic, where his grandfather owns a few hotels. In each hotel, there's a pizzeria with a wood-fired oven.
"We didn't want to limit ourselves to being just a pizzeria. We're combining fresh local ingredients with the pizza concept," he said.
Entree pizzas range from $7.95 to $11.95. Specialties include the Pizza Verde, topped with fresh pesto, spinach, feta, pine nuts and scallions. The Lutz Boy pizza is topped with house smoked chicken, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions and mozzarella.
Fuller added, "I'm into natural food and farm fresh foods. I like to use local farms and local businesses for anything I possibly can."
In addition to pizzas, the restaurant offers tapas, soups, salads and sandwiches.
The restaurant uses locally farmed beef and pork for its sandwiches, which include burgers, barbecue beef and mojo pulled pork.
The menu also features some unusual items, such as popular Gator Bombs (fried gator-stuffed peppers with chipotle aioli) and beer cheese soup made with locally brewed beer.
"Even our beers are local," Fuller said. "Right now I have five local beers on the menu, and that's about to double in the next month."
And they recycle.
"We recycle everything that we possibly can here, like beer bottles and even food scraps. We compost them," Fuller said.
Different entree specials ranging from $10 to $15 are available each night, based on what's local and in season. Live music and family events are on the horizon. The Gathering Place, 16319 N Florida Ave., Lutz, is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Call (813) 280-2978 or visit thegatheringplacetampa.com.
A different Hibachi Buffet opens its doors
CARROLLWOOD — A new Hibachi Buffet has opened in Carrollwood, but this one has no affiliation to Hibachi Buffet in New Tampa.
Owned by husband and wife Sandy Lin and Shou Dong Chen, the Hibachi Buffet opened in January on N Dale Mabry in the space formerly occupied by the Roadhouse Grill, which closed years ago.
The all-you-can-eat Asian buffet features a hibachi grill, a sushi bar and an international buffet, manager Eddie Wong said.
At the hibachi grill, "you pick your food and the chef cooks it for you," he explained.
Customers choose anything they'd like from chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, noodles and an assortment of vegetables.
"The sushi bar has no set menu. It varies depending on what's fresh for the week," Wong said.
The international buffet features everything from Asian classics like beef and broccoli to Thai egg rolls, even hot dogs for the kids. Seafood selections include octopus, clams, salmon and blue crab, and they change depending on what's available.
The menu has more than 200 items including a salad bar and desserts, and a simple price structure. Lunch is $7.99 for adults, and $2.99 to $4.99 for children, depending on age. Dinner is $13.99 for adults on weekdays and $14.99 on weekends; children are $3.99 to 6.99, depending on age.
The Hibachi Buffet, at 13151 N Dale Mabry Highway, offers lunch from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner is 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, The restaurant offers an all day dinner buffet on Sundays. Call (813) 960-8668 or visit hibachigrilltampa.com.