BRANDON — Benjamin Coia thought his future was in hockey.
The Philadelphia native played a year at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., and then had his sights set on bringing roller hockey to Philly.
Instead, with the help of his father, John, and support of his wife, Adriana, he brought a taste of Philadelphia to Hillsborough County when he opened Philly Phlava in Town 'N Country in 2005 and expanded into Carrollwood in 2008.
Now the Town 'N Country resident has entrusted the help of his brothers-in-law, Sebastian Pisciolari and Diego Restrepo, to expand to the eastern part of the county. Philly Phlava opened Aug. 31 at 127 E Bloomingdale Ave. in the Bloomingdale Plaza near Winn-Dixie.
"I'm always looking for places," said Coia, who also operated a food stand for Lightning games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "From Day 1, the most requested area was Brandon."
Coia said the brothers decided on a third brick-and-mortar location instead of taking the catering trailer out more or starting a food truck business. Philly Phlava has catered everything from surprise 40th birthday parties to St. Patrick's Day parties, and Coia said 30 percent of his business is deliveries — within 5 miles — even to Dallas Cowboys fans on football Sunday.
"Just don't tell us before we make your food," he said jokingly.
Coia and his Philly Phlava brand are as Philadelphia as you can get. From the Flyers orange on the walls to the cheesesteaks — complete with rolls shipped from Amoroso's and your choice of cheese, including Cheez Whiz.
Hoagies and Center City soft pretzels? Check. Italian water ice? Yep. And as a bonus, Hank's soda in the fountain — including orange cream and birch beer.
For the South Jerseyans, panzarotti are on the menu, which translates to a deep-fried pocket of dough, cheese and sauce. Diners can get a 10-inch cheesesteak, small fry and fountain drink for about $10 after tax. Breakfast also is available.
Check out the full menu at phillyphlava.com.
Need to train a puppy? Got a dog with issues?
Brandon has a new dog whisperer for hire. Locals familiar with the Cesar Millan television show where he trained problematic dogs from 2004 to 2012 can now request similar services from Dog-Eze Training Specialists, a family-owned business that Brett and Amy Pittman of Valrico opened last month.
The Pittmans offer the advanced obedience and dog psychology services that kept viewers tuning in to Millan all those years, more common requests include housebreaking and puppy training.
"That's a TV show," said Brett Pittman, who has been training dogs since 1989 and has a golden retriever, Jack Russell terrier and a Morkie (Yorkshire terrier-Maltese) at home.
Pittman recalls a particularly challenging client. He once turned around an ornery 8-year-old cocker spaniel that, despite being the family pet, attacked the daughter to the point of stitches.
"They were going to take it to the pound to put it to sleep," he said. "Within a short period of time the dog's whole demeanor changed from that point forward."
Pittman, who has trained dogs for local athletes, celebrities and media personalities, offers his in-home expertise in Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties. His first customer was Dr. Dennis M. Lox, founder and medical director of Florida Spine and Sports Medicine in Clearwater. The day after the Pittmans had a private discussion about going into business, Lox called and wanted his new dog trained because he recalled Brett trained another dog 18 years earlier.
"I kind of feel like it was a God thing," Pittman said. "We kind of rolled into it."
Pittman started training dogs for All-American Dog Training Academy, but has owned and operated American Grounds Maintenance since 1998. He said he wants to "phase out" of his landscaping business in favor of dog training full time, something he has done privately for friends and family members during the past decade.
Visit dog-ezetraining.com for information.
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