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Luigi's Italian Restaurant to open on W Gandy Boulevard

GANDY/SUN BAY SOUTH — The space that for 20 years was home to the original Indochinois soon will reopen as Luigi's Italian Restaurant, with a sleek, cozy interior that is meant to match the comfort food on its menu.

Just don't go expecting to find a guy named Luigi.

"Luigi is a name our designer came up with," general manager James Vuong said. "It's catchy, it's Italian. Everybody knows 'Luigi's' is Italian."

Vuong himself is from California, the land of fusion cuisine, but he said one of his favorite foods is classic Italian. That's what Luigi's will stick to, he said, Southern Italian food with lots of pizza and pasta, a good bit of garlic and the occasional seafood dish.

The restaurant at 3324 W Gandy Blvd. is being financed by several investors from New York and California, some of whom are Italian, Vuong said. They took over the space after Indochinois moved to a strip center on S Dale Mabry Highway.

Vuong said Luigi's has hired chefs with many years of experience preparing Italian food.

"We are very confident in our food and our presentation," he said. "We'll try to stick with what is classic and just add a little tweak so it attracts people."

The restaurant is 2,000 square feet and will seat about 100, he said, with appetizers averaging $8, pastas $11, entrees about $14 and lunch subs about $7. Beer and wine will be available, with wine about $6 a glass.

The opening is scheduled for July 3. Hours at Luigi's will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 for dinner Monday through Friday and 5 to 11 Saturday and Sunday.

Salon marks 10 years by opening another

Brandon Wagner marked the 10th anniversary of his Tribeca ColorSalon by signing a lease to open a second one.

Wagner, whose hair-only salon is at 920 W Kennedy Blvd., plans to open a version of Tribeca at Centro Ybor that will provide hair, nails, waxing and makeup services. The nearly 4,000-square-foot salon at 1600 E Eighth Ave., unit A137 — a space that until recently was occupied by Victoria's Secret — may be ready by early September.

Wagner acknowledges it's a risky time for a big expansion, but said he was able to secure an attractive lease. The plan is to open a few more urban salons, with the Ybor location eventually becoming the flagship, he said.

"I really started thinking about sustainability," Wagner said. "I do believe the urban core is going to strengthen again. It's going to come to a point where people are going to have to move into the city."

He considered downtown and Channelside locations, but "I think Ybor has the most infrastructure (already) in place," he said.

The new Tribeca will have a store-within-a-store with a separate entrance. A 600-square-foot space dubbed "Becky" will be devoted to nail and makeup services. A similar-sized space will house Tribeca's academy for stylists to take classes, Wagner said.

Furniture, decor store has 'glorified junk'

A new shop for furnishings and decor has cropped up in an area where other more high-end establishments have struggled lately to stay in business.

But there's not much "new" about this store, which is packed with vintage and revitalized items, and owned by two women who know their business well. Fay Johns (most recently owner of Fay's Side Porch) has joined with Karen Fraley (founder of the Blue Moon Trading Company) to open Willy's at 3910 S MacDill Ave.

"I call it 'glorified junk' — a lot of painted furniture, upholstered pieces," Johns said.

"We are trying to … work with the economic times. I'm sure there are still customers out there for the very high-end things, but people need practical things as well."

Willy's has limited hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

"We're old and we don't want to work that hard anymore," Johns quipped. "I've been doing this way too long."

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Luigi's Italian Restaurant to open on W Gandy Boulevard 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 4:30am]
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