DADE CITY — What was once the home of the city's Cuban staple restaurant is now a dormant building with a promising sign.
"Under new ownership."
Three generations of the Alcedo family will serve up ropa vieja, yellow rice and chicken, and baked pulled pork in the shell of the former Tropical Breeze Cafe when the Palomino Family Restaurant opens next month.
Like its predecessor, the Palomino will feature Cuban-American food. But unlike the Tropical Breeze's latest incarnation, the Palomino will not be geared toward the party crowd.
"I believe there's a lot of potential here if it goes back to being family oriented and not a night club or a bar," said Alex Alcedo, 46, who leased the building with his wife, Elaine, 43, earlier this month.
The fact that the two restaurants dish up Cuban specialties is merely coincidence. Alex Alcedo ran a Cuban restaurant and bakery for four years in Cape Coral and is bringing back his old recipes.
"We're going to make a famous Cuban sandwich that when I made (it) down south, people would come from 30 miles away to eat," he said.
The Alcedos took over the building after the Tropical Breeze Cafe closed at the end of October.
Property owner Dick Peterson wouldn't say why former tenant Eddy Reyes left. The restaurant closed a few weeks after authorities arrested Reyes on charges that he swindled a woman out of $2,500 for a box promising "Free Satellite Television for Life."
Authorities say Reyes had a side business called Dreamlinc, which offered customers free satellite TV for a one-time fee. Reyes' arrest report said he sold devices that had software "designed to be used for defrauding satellite service providers with unauthorized reception of their services."
The Times was unable to reach Reyes for this story.
Reyes assumed ownership of the Tropical Breeze in February, said original owner Edna Gonzalez.
Gonzalez opened the restaurant in November 2003 in the Seventh Street building now owned by David Hernandez, husband of City Commissioner Camille Hernandez. The cafe started with 28 seats and expanded to 40. After a legal spat with David Hernandez, Gonzalez moved her business across the street to the current location and filled 80 seats, with long lines at lunch time.
"Dade City was very, very good to us," said Gonzalez, who now works at a Cuban restaurant in Palm Bay.
"When I heard that (the Tropical Breeze) was finally closed down, I was very sad," she added. "That was my baby."
Gonzalez said renovations at the new building set her back $350,000. She couldn't keep up with the debt payments, and earlier this year, she transferred ownership of the Tropical Breeze and its remaining debt to Reyes in lieu of repaying him the $50,000 he had loaned to help pay for renovations, she said.
But instead of keeping with the cafe's original vibe, the Tropical Breeze took on a nightclub persona. It had metal detectors, and the Dade City Police Department saw an increase of calls to the area, including reports of underage drinking and open containers in the parking lot.
"It was a nice family restaurant that got taken over by a man who had the wrong concept for downtown Dade City," said JoAnn Garner, 49, sister of Elaine Alcedo and future day manager of the Palomino.
Garner quit her job as a house cleaner in Spring Hill to work at Palomino. Elaine Alcedo is selling her Dade City consignment shop, N Bee Tween, to run the business. The restaurant will employ about six family members, from Elaine Alcedo's 75-year-old mother, Thelma "Chris" Namislo, who will spearhead public relations efforts, to her 21-year-old daughter, Ashley Hirschy, who will work as the night manager.
That's part of the reason the family dunked its life savings into the restaurant: They want to make sure there was a job for any relative who needs one.
"The economy's horrible. If we can help our family, that's what we want to do," said Elaine Alcedo.
The restaurant is set to open Dec. 1, possibly earlier. The family wants to keep the food affordable. Prices include $5.95 and $6.95 for the lunch and dinner buffets, respectively.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 435-7312.