Make us your home page

Ichicoro Ramen to open a sister restaurant in downtown St. Pete's Station House

ST. PETERSBURG — Two years ago, Ichicoro wowed New York City with its Tampa-style ramen, noodles overflowing with Florida freshness and ingredients. Even Gwyneth Paltrow showed up to the pop-up to slurp noodles.

Later that year, Ichicoro Ramen opened in Seminole Heights and the tiny restaurant contained the most sought-after seats of the year. And this autumn, Ichicoro Ane comes to St. Petersburg.

Ane is "older sister" in Japanese, and despite the fact that this big sib will be younger, it will expand upon and add depth to what has continued to make Ichicoro one of the hottest restaurants in Tampa. Noel Cruz, a University of Florida and Culinary Institute of America grad, and partner Kerem Koca have been looking for just the right St. Petersburg location for more than a year, finally inking a deal with Gries Investment Funds partner Steve Gianfilippo for the space that until January was Station House Restaurant and for years before that was Cafe Alma.

Part of what makes Ichicoro so appealing in Tampa is its intimate size (only 40 seats) and its limited menu (a handful of ramen dishes and a few snacks). Ane will be many times that size, with a dramatically larger menu of sharable izakaya and other a la carte Japanese-inspired dishes, plus a full, whiskey-centric bar.

The news joins reports of several new monster restaurant projects potentially debuting in St. Petersburg (Doc Ford's at the Pier, a large one at the new Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement and still another at Hyatt Place) as well as the demise of a longtime downtown destination restaurant, Z Grille, whose owners cited "saturation" downtown as a reason for closure.

Why are we to think Ichicoro Ane will succeed in this increasingly heated restaurant market, especially in a restaurant location that has seen its share of failure?

For one thing, Gianfilippo, who masterminded the Station House Building with its co-work office suites, conference rooms, coding school and other oh-so-21st century hipness (Charles Trippy, vlogger and bass guitarist for We The Kings got married here recently), is all in.

On Sunday, they begin demolition on the right-hand side of the front steps at 260 First Avenue S so the restaurant entrance is front and center, not tucked in the side alley. And despite the fact that Gianfilippo attended to every design detail of the defunct Station House Restaurant, Cruz convinced him to gut the whole thing and start over.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Times got a private tour of the restaurant space: A small ramen shop over here, a central bar and private dining at the back, huge lounge area serviced by a second bar, murals by artists from New York, lots of exposed brick and polished concrete floors.

"It was a much larger space than Ichicoro in Seminole Heights," Cruz said. "At first blush it seemed like a lot to handle, but the more we thought about it..."

TOP 50: Affordable restaurants to try in Tampa Bay

BUYA: Guy Fieri in St. Pete filming his TV show

MORE: Il Ritorno chef preps for dinner at James Beard House

Gianfilippo, who lived in Tokyo and has been a huge fan of Ichicoro, feels that the organic growth and foot traffic associated with the Station House Building (more than 200 members, with a huge number of weddings, private parties and young professional gatherings) will assure the new restaurant of a customer base beyond fans hiking over from Tampa.

"My plan from Day One was never to become a restaurateur," Gianfilippo said. "I knew I would eventually turn over the space to more cultured partners."

St. Petersburg is not without ramen. Buya Ramen opened in 2016. And there are plenty of sushi restaurants. Ichicoro Ane will not serve sushi per se, but Cruz says he and co-chef Branden Lenz will offer some raw fish dishes among the small plates and that the ramen element will be less of a focus than in Seminole Heights.

Ane will benefit from the staff's experience at the flagship restaurant in Seminole Heights, as well as at the food hall concept Imoto ("little sister") that Cruz and company debuted in February in Birmingham's historic Pizitz Building. The Imoto concept will be replicated in the Heights Public Market that opens this fall in the Armature Works Building in Tampa.

With much of the build out still in front of him, Cruz is bullish about prospects in St. Petersburg.

"We knew we wanted to be on this side. It's the natural progression, to take it to the next step. It won't be radically different. But in a bigger space we get to push the boundaries."

Contact Laura Reiley at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.


MORE: Restaurant news and reviews

COOKING: Recipes and tips to do it yourself

REVIEW: Don Rigatoni has affordable pastas perfect for takeout


Ichicoro Ramen to open a sister restaurant in downtown St. Pete's Station House 07/11/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 1:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  2. Ticket window: Shania Twain, Chicago, George Benson

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Shania Twain performs during the debut of her residency show "Shania: Still the One" at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on December 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
  3. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest


    Plan your weekend


    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  4. Pasco Events for Aug. 25-31


    25 Friday

    Feeding Pasco's Elderly hosts inaugural Leadership Breakfast: The Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Division/Feeding Pasco's Elderly will host this east Pasco event to mirror the Ambassador's Breakfast fundraising event that has been held the past two years on the county's west side. County …

  5. Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Pastelitos, Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    On Saturday, Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. will celebrate its third anniversary with a Florida weisse festival, showcasing densely fruited tart wheat beers from more than a dozen Tampa Bay area breweries including, of course, many of its own brews in this summer-friendly style.

    Center: Coppertail Brewing’s Cherry Pastelitos. Flanking it are Coppertail’s BOMP (blood orange, mango, passionfruit), left, and Pinky Swear (pink lemonade-flavored).