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Palma Ceia's Kon-Tiki cafe fuses a world of food, flavors

PALMA CEIA — For 50 years, out-of-towners and locals have poured into the Tahitian Inn's busy coffee shop for scrambled eggs and burgers. On Oct. 22, the Pupello family owners began serving dinner six nights a week in the renovated cafe now called Kon-Tiki.

Executive chef Erin Van Zandt Guggino cooked up the Latin and Asian menu, fusing Cuban, South American, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese recipes. Small dishes, tacos and sandwiches, salads and entrees range from $8 to $23.

As examples, she describes two favorites: chimichurri chicken skewers with baby bok choy, and roasted tomatoes and green curry chicken tacos on crispy wonton shells dotted with jicama green papaya slaw.

"If you've been to the coffee shop, you wouldn't recognize it,'' said Guggino, a Culinary Institute of America grad. Interior designer Thomas Lamb removed a wall and freshened the dining room with a wave of white tile. "Tommy worked his magic.''

Wine is sold by the glass and bottle. Cocktails are imaginative, several made with bubble tea containing small tapioca pearls called "boba." An Espresso blend of oolong tea and tequila is rimmed with black sesame seeds.

Kon-Tiki is inside the Tahitian Inn at 601 S Dale Mabry Highway. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m. for the "tween" menu and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner. The cafe is open till midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

New dance academy brings 'flair' with it

Instruction, confidence and discipline, that's what to expect from Joni Marie Dance Academy, says Joni Marie Puskas.

The former Walt Disney World dancer opened the academy in August, offering jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, vocal and acting classes.

"We're bringing Broadway and New York City flair to South Tampa," Puskas said.

Combination classes are the most popular at the MacDill Avenue academy, across the street from Datz restaurant. Ballet and tap are combined for ages 3 to 10. For adults, it's jazz and hip-hop.

"Adult classes are very difficult to find around here," says Puskas, 27, who began dance lessons at age 3 in Rutherford, N.J., and continued performance training through college at Montclair State University.

Private lessons are also available. Members of the military are eligible for a 20 percent discount.

Joni Marie Dance Academy at 2711 S MacDill Ave. is open 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Call (813) 418-0488 or visit

Going to the chapel, gonna get a workout

Notary and minister Nan Klator has married two business pursuits — officiating at weddings and personal training — in an expanded space on S Dale Mabry Highway, just north of El Prado Boulevard, next to Subway.

"I call it my wedding hall gym,'' said Klator, who says she performed more than 100 weddings last year doing business as Ceremonies by Nan.

"Instead of six guests, now we can have 30 or 40," said Klator whose services are available daily, including on short notice. "Each ceremony is one of a kind, like this weekend's Halloween wedding."

Last year, Klator, 52, became Coach Nan, earning certification by the American Council on Exercise. She offers personal and small-group training in her new studio.

"When I realized how working with a personal trainer helped my weight, back and knee problems, I knew I could help other people in that situation." Klator also volunteers twice a week at 8 a.m. at Joe Abrahams Fitness & Wellness Center at Ballast Point Park.

Ceremonies by Nan and Fitness Fun by Nan are at 3402 S Dale Mabry Highway. For information, call (813) 839-5564.

Palma Ceia's Kon-Tiki cafe fuses a world of food, flavors 10/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 4:31am]
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