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Chez Bryce on Davis Islands prepares a five-course farewell

Chef Bryce Whittlesey is taking reservations for the last supper at Chez Bryce.

Saturday, c'est fini.

I plan to be there when the Tampa-raised, Paris-trained chef prepares his favorite five courses for a farewell dinner, price fixed at $49 per person. Reservations required.

Then the doors close at the French-Mediterranean bistro Whittlesey opened on a Davis Islands corner nearly three years ago.

"It's been extremely difficult,'' he said. "We tried to figure out how to survive, especially in the summer.

"Fixed rents make it nearly impossible."

But like one of his puffy souffles, good news arises. Whittlesey will continue to share his kitchen passion as a caterer. You can reach him at (813) 368-1256.

"There were too many valleys and not enough peaks'' he says. "But I've learned tremendously and met amazing people."

• • •

Hot rodders and bobbysoxers who grew up at the Colonnade reminisce over the Early Bird Specials these days. Last week, more than 1,600 loyals celebrated the restaurant's 75th anniversary with $7.50 fried shrimp baskets and 75 cents slices of pie.

Rows of classic cars jogged memories of drive-in service and back-seat smooching. Dozens of vintage autos, including Chris and Dana Harwell's 1935 Rolls-Royce, filled the lot and lawn.

The signature drink — Coke with an olive— may be revived, say co-owners Jack and Dickey Whiteside, grandsons of Lois Whiteside, who opened the original burger joint July 3, 1935. Their children, Stacey Whitfield and J.D. Whiteside, manage the restaurant at 3401 Bayshore Boulevard, long since grandfathered into the residential zone.

"It was just so much fun,'' said Barbara Garrett as her sister, Anne Kantor mimed rolling down a car window to attach a food tray. The Einbinder girls, as they were known back in their Plant High days, still "cruise the 'nade." All our class reunion meetings are here," said Kantor.

• • •

Dick Greco bestowed "hugs not texts" to Ybor City Lions Club members and guests as if the Columbia Restaurant was campaign headquarters. Which it could be any day now.

The two-term mayor was honored June 30 with the Victor E. DiMaio Award for his role in the historic district's revival. For 20 years the club has singled out Ybor boosters such as Delia Sanchez, Patrick Manteiga and Joe Capitano. Two years ago the club named the award in memory of the late DiMaio, a fixture at Ybor civic causes.

Emcee Jack Harris lauded Greco as "the heart and soul of the city." Noting the turnout of many of his former staff — including police chief Bennie Holder, executive secretary Dolores Fernandez and development director Fernando Noriega Harris teased Greco, once "one of the youngest mayors in America, now looks like he's trying to become one of the oldest."

• • •

Architect Albert Alfonso charmingly filled Dale Chihuly's paint-splattered shoes when health issues prevented the renowned artist from coming to St. Petersburg to host the opening of the Chihuly Collection himself.

Alfonso squired USF president Judy Genshaft and artist Jim Rosenquist "my dates," he said — to the Carnivale of Glass on July 10.

The block party spilled out of the 400 Beach Drive gallery (Don't call it a museum, Alfonso said) into the adjacent 400 Beach Drive Seafood and Tap House. Street performers and Chihuly's whimsy delighted a small Tampa contingent eyeing glass flowers, bowls, chandeliers and "gardens."

I noticed blueprints rolled under Rosenquist's arm. Is there another artsy commission in the architect's future?

"You're very observant," was all he would say.

• • •

When it comes to the Boss, just about everybody in Tampa has a story. Mine began 25 years ago, when George Steinbrenner bought Tampa Bay Monthly, the magazine that I worked for.

The first thing he did was fire all but two of us.

Then he gave me his Rolodex, the Facebook of yesteryear, and told me to start making calls.

That entree into Mr. Steinbrenner's business and social world evolved into important contacts that I would use in the years to come.

Reporting for and to the Boss was thrilling. Usually his bark was bigger than his bite, but pleasing him made you work twice as hard.

I left on maternity leave a year later and didn't return.

But that year ultimately shaped my journalism career, and I am forever grateful.

Summer Breezes is an occasional column about interesting Tampa happenings. Amy Scherzer can be reached at (813) 226-3332.

Chez Bryce on Davis Islands prepares a five-course farewell 07/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:48pm]
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