TAMPA — Childhood friends Dave Del Rio and George Tamargo focus on the Spanish foods they loved as kids at their new venture, Del Rio's Cafe, on Armenia Avenue, a few blocks north of Columbus Drive.
"I want to bring back the old-time stuff, like bollitos,'' says Chef Del Rio, describing deep-fried, spicy black-eyed peas fritters. "You just can't find them anymore."
The restaurant, which opened Oct. 11, celebrates "our heritage and Spanish ancestry," Del Rio said, plus a passion for classic New Orleans cuisine originating "from Spanish, Italian and French settlers."
Chef Del Rio spent 20 years with OSI Restaurant Partners, including six years as executive chef at Lee Roy Selmon's. More recently, he was the chef at the popular Smoke Barbeque & Grill in Hyde Park.
In June, Del Rio said that Smoke, at 901 W Platt St., had closed for the summer. The restaurant would reopen in mid September with an enhanced menu, renovated kitchen and improved air conditioning, he said. But four months later, the site remains shuttered and Del Rio has moved on, to his cozy cafe that seats 20.
Reached this week, Smoke owner Gordon Davis would not elaborate on plans for reopening his Platt Street restaurant. He did comment on Del Rio. "He's an incredible chef,'' Davis said, "and if we were doing a Spanish concept, he's the guy I would choose. I wish him the best."
Del Rio seemed content. "I have free rein to make whatever I want," he said. "It's my place."
Coincidentally, co-owner Tamargo's father-in-law once owned a Cuban sandwich shop in the same West Tampa location in the 1960s.
Now, Del Rio names Po' boys, shrimp creole, Basa a la Rusa and filet salteado as entree examples at the spot. Weekly specials include Monday's "Nawlans Washday," with Creole red beans and rice with grilled andouille sausage, salad and warm Cuban bread for $7.49.
"On Fridays, we do another throwback, basa enchilado,'' says Del Rio, "a mild whitefish topped with an old-fashioned, spicy red crabmeat sauce." Saturday brunch features shrimp and grits, Spanish tortilla omelet and chicken and waffles.
Catering is also available. "Paella is our speciality for parties,'' Del Rio says.
Del Rio's Cafe, 3210 N Armenia Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, till 8 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Call (813) 679-5144.
Studio teaches verbal, nonviolent judo
Sanano Martial Arts studio, which opened in mid October, offers both physical and verbal defense training designed to defuse potentially volatile situations. Owners Andy Sanano and Lee Fjelstad use the facility to teach martial arts and verbal judo in private and group sessions.
Sanano, a 10th degree grand master, brings 40 years of experience to teaching Arnis, Awayan, Shotokan and tae kwon do.
Fjelstad has taught verbal judo, the art of conflict resolution using language instead of punches, for 30 years.
"We use words to modify and redirect verbally abusive behavior to defend yourself without violence,'' said Fjelstad, who says he has trained over a million people on four continents, including thousands of police and federal officers, to enforce rules and regulations without resorting to violence. Clients include the airlines, hospitals and the cruise industry, whose employees must often defuse passenger and patient disruptions.
"A negative tone can set off someone else's negative tone and pretty soon shouts get to pushing,'' said Fjelstad, noting the rise in reports of student bullying.
Combat judo, yoga and mediation classes are also offered.
Sanano Martial Arts is located at 3411 S Dale Mabry Highway. Visit SananoMartialArts.com or call (813) 260-5646.
These waffles come with fried chicken
Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Sometimes diners at Tampa Luv Chicken & Waffles call the combination all three.
Belgian waffles, about 7 inches round and an inch thick, come piled high with fried chicken — thighs, legs, whole wings or, most popular, tenders, plus a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Prices range from two-piece tenders, $4.99, up to five-pieces of chicken, $10.29. All entrees are served in plastic foam containers and include a can of soda.
"Everything is made fresh when you order it,'' said general manager Laura Whitt. "We egg and flour the chicken on order, so it's fresh food, not fast food. Even the fries are seasoned and battered to order."
For "extra luv," add an egg for 59 cents, or chocolate chips and pecans, 49 cents.
Takem Willis opened the restaurant Oct. 10 on Florida Avenue, north of Waters Avenue, with 32 seats. Now an outdoor patio seats another 16.
Tampa Luv Chicken & Waffles, 8426 N Florida Ave., is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; call (813) 935-9900.
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