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Former Basta's to become Mexican restaurant

ST. PETERSBURG — Five years after the revered Italian restaurant Basta's closed a Mexican restaurant is opening in its place.

Come April, expect a very different look and feel at El Gallo Grande. Translation: The big rooster.

Phil Farley, the man who turned an aging public housing complex into the hip Urban Style Flats, is a part owner in the new business at 1625 Fourth St. S. He regularly drove past the former Basta's on his way home and ultimately decided it was time to revive it. He recruited two other partners, Carlina and Javier Sarabia, to make El Gallo Grande authentic.

"It was Phil's great idea but he had us in mind," said Carlina Sarabia of St. Petersburg. "My husband is a great cook; he's Mexican. It's going to be good and it's going to be real." The couple is also opening a Mexican restaurant in Miami.

Some of her favorites on the menu include carnitas tacos with pork in pasilla pepper salsa, tinga chicken and cactus salad. There will be many vegetarian offerings. Tortillas will be made on site.

"We're going to try to stick to the real, real thing. It's going to be a little challenging because tastes here are different than in Mexico," said Sarabia, a native of Panama. Yet she knows Americans go on vacation to Cancun or Cabo San Lucas and come back raving about the authentic little dives they visited. Now that taste and feeling will be in St. Petersburg.

El Gallo Grande's decor is basic and rustic yet hip with a concrete floor, exposed pipes and art painted right on the walls. A colorful rooster with tail feathers flying is painted on the exterior right next to the front door.

Tequila is also an important ingredient of authentic Mexico and the new eatery. El Gallo Grande will serve multiple brands of tequila and different varieties of margaritas.

The restaurant will have one area that's light and bright where families can frequent, Sarabia said, and another part that's more for adults.

Farley bought the 3,500-square-foot building for $192,000 in November.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or

Former Basta's to become Mexican restaurant 03/03/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 3:02pm]
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