Make us your home page

Nuevo Café on S Dale Mabry Highway is rising from the ashes

VIRGINIA PARK — He had only owned the restaurant for two years before it burned nearly to the ground in July 2008. But Al Suarez never doubted he would rebuild the Nuevo Café.

What was left of the eatery, known for its Cuban sandwiches and deviled crab, was gutted to a shell a few months ago, and work has intensified in earnest on the site at 3301 S Dale Mabry Highway. The new Nuevo Café should be open in September or October, Suarez said.

Partner Mike Wasp, who bought the business with Suarez in 2006, has moved on, Suarez said. But he couldn't.

"The busier it was at the restaurant, the happier I was," Suarez said. "My grandparents had a restaurant; my uncle had a restaurant. I'm ready to go."

No stranger to adversity, Suarez has rebuilt his career before. A former Tampa Fire Rescue captain, he was notably forced out of his job in 2005 for his involvement in a firehouse photo shoot featuring two strippers. Running the restaurant, he said, gave him great joy.

"When I rolled up to that fire, it was devastating," he said. "But you've got to think positive. I'm coming back to this restaurant with two years' experience. I know what to do, what not to do, how I'm going to enhance it just a bit. I'm looking forward to it."

The fire, which officials ruled was caused by an electrical short in a light fixture, had a few silver linings. Suarez was able to help his wife, Samantha Ward, campaign last fall for a Hillsborough County Circuit Court judicial race that she ultimately won.

And Suarez has spent this year helping coach the Citrus Park Little League's 13- to 14-year-old team, which includes many of the players from the Citrus Park team that made it to the Little League World Series last year in Williamsport, Pa. The team — which is "just as good as they were then," Suarez said — has advanced to the sectionals tournament, which begins today.

The fire also made Suarez realize how many loyal customers the Nuevo Café had acquired since it first opened in 2005.

"My phone rings off the hook every time they see something going on" at the building, Suarez said.

The restaurant will be open daily from about 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature a tropical-style interior and a menu that has been tweaked, Suarez said, but will include all the old favorites.

Sculptor moves on

Belgian artist Marc De Waele's South Tampa gallery has closed after less than a year in business. But that doesn't mean his eye-catching, imposing metal sculptures have disappeared from Tampa altogether.

De Waele moved out of the Art Symphony Galleria space at 2714 S MacDill Ave. two weeks ago and has set up a new workshop and home studio in Seminole Heights.

"He needed more space," said his agent and partner, Terri Kolek. "He's doing a lot of large, really cool sculptures. They're big and there wasn't a lot of room for him to work."

De Waele was commissioned by PepsiCo to create a 7-foot-tall sculpture of a quarterback fashioned of Pepsi cans for the NFL Experience at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa in February. The piece is now at the company's New York headquarters, Kolek said.

De Waele plans to adorn the South Seminole Heights property with more examples of his sculpture. The new workshop is at the corner of Emma Street and N Boulevard, and De Waele is available by appointment. His Web site is For more information, call (813) 205-4905.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail

Nuevo Café on S Dale Mabry Highway is rising from the ashes 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works


    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  2. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach


    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  3. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021


    TAMPA — Record rainfall in Los Angeles ultimately may end Tampa Bay's drought of hosting the Super Bowl.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 

Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)
  5. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil


    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]