Yet another reason to be thankful for our local legend Richard Gonzmart, fourth-generation owner of the Columbia Restaurant Group in Tampa: Gonzmart has just been inducted into the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) Award hall of fame. As a 2018 inductee, he joins Sir Bruno Serato, founder of Caterina’s Club, a charity that feeds more than 3,500 children nightly in more than 25 cities.
Gonzmart serves or has served on dozens of non-profit boards and organizations and has been named many things over the years — a Luminary, Philanthropist of the Year, Father of the Year, Hispanic Man of the Year, Businessman of the Year, two-time Alumni of the Year, Outstanding Citizen of the Year and Tampa Police Citizen of the Year. Whew. Pope Francis recognized Gonzmart with the highest recognition of the Catholic Church, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Gonzmart’s great-grandfather started the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s historic Ybor City in 1905. Still family-owned, it is now the oldest restaurant in Florida. There are seven Columbia restaurants in Florida and six other Florida restaurants of Gonzmart family brands, including Ulele and Goody Goody Burgers.
The DiRoNA Hall of Fame was established in 1993 with the initial induction of 14 members. Since that time, honorees are selected and recognized annually at the DiRoNA Reunion. Candidates qualify by having at least 25 years of dedicated service and by making significant contributions to the distinguished dining industry.