TAMPA — Tampa Bay chef Domenica Macchia, celebrated and controversial, has another new home.
Starting next week, Macchia heads to South Tampa to Datz Dough, the recently launched bakery project of Datz owners Suzanne and Roger Perry. Macchia has been hired to re-envision Datz Dough's food, with carte blanche to come up with a new menu.
Macchia has done stints in kitchens at Redwoods, MJ's, Diner 437, BellaBrava, Shackleton's Folly and Three Birds Tavern, all in St. Petersburg.
The longer commute is no accident: Due to a noncompete contract she signed with Three Birds owners Robin and Jack King, she is legally prohibited from working in Pinellas County restaurants until February 2014.
In fact, Hans Klenke, owner of Primi Ristorante Italiano in St. Petersburg, hired Macchia three weeks ago under the mistaken understanding that the legal injunction had been lifted. According to Klenke, Macchia was nearly thrown in jail last Thursday and the Kings' lawyer threatened Klenke with a lawsuit.
While Klenke tried to negotiate her settlement with the Three Birds owners, Macchia met with Suzanne Perry and signed aboard.
"She took the job before she had a chance to tell me," said Klenke. "I wish it had turned out a little differently, but it is what it is. This has been a hard time for her."
So how did the Perrys agree to take on this notoriously itinerant chef?
"It's a curious story," says Suzanne Perry. "I'd been reading all these stories about her for a year. But I asked around, 'Do you know this girl?' And everyone said they loved her and she was the best chef. At Dough, we've been focused on the baking part but the savory food part has really struggled. I had the idea to give it to her."
A straight talker, she added: "I flat-out like her."
For her part, Macchia asserts with equal candor, "I am so grateful for Suzanne."
Her aims, once on the payroll, are a little esoteric: "To cook like I've never cooked before in my life because they have the resources. I'm thinking elegant but homey. After the crazy year I've had, I feel like I have angels. I want to make it shine, and I want to shine."
In a bit of Twitter banter Wednesday afternoon, when asked more specifically what the future holds, Suzanne Perry tweeted coyly: "I'm pretty sure it holds duck-fat fries. That's all I know. @dmacchia keeps secrets."
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.