Make us your home page
Instagram

Joe Maddon helps give first taste of his much-anticipated Tampa restaurant

Tampa Bay Rays manager and Ava partner Joe Maddon talks to other guests at the restaurant’s “pop-up” event Thursday at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa. Ava is scheduled to open in October.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Tampa Bay Rays manager and Ava partner Joe Maddon talks to other guests at the restaurant’s “pop-up” event Thursday at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa. Ava is scheduled to open in October.

TAMPA — Joe Maddon spent the day watching David Price get traded to the Detroit Tigers. Michael Stewart spent the day grouper fishing with the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, at Maddon's suggestion. The former in a grape-colored polo shirt and black jeans, the latter just slightly wind-burned, the duo were serene hosts at something Tampa doesn't have much of: a one-night-only pop-up restaurant.

On Thursday, Buddy Brew Coffee opened its doors to an invitation-only preview of Ava, the restaurant collaboration of the Rays manager and restaurant veteran Stewart, owner of Tampa's 717 South. Slated to open in October in the Post SoHo apartment complex at W Swann and S Howard avenues, the much-anticipated project will feature a multiregional Italian menu and a wine list guided by Maddon's extensive wine knowledge.

A group of 40 friends and curious foodies crowded into Buddy Brew's recently expanded space to sample a seven-course menu executed by Ava's executive chef, Joshua Hernández, whom Stewart met earlier this year on a trip to Los Angeles, where Hernández was cooking at Bestia, Ori Menashe's hot regional Italian restaurant.

Hernández and Stewart bonded over the triumphs and heartbreaks of temperamental Acunto wood-fired ovens. A jet-black Italian-born Acunto will be a central feature of Ava, the space designed by Joshua Charles, who has helped create stylish properties such as the Optimist Restaurant in Atlanta.

Sans pizza oven at Buddy Brew, the evening got under way with dry-cured Italian meats, much of it from the duck breast prosciutto to the potted pork with a cap of lustrous duck fat, concocted in Hernández's home kitchen for now.

In cities around the country, professional athletes and coaches have lent their names to restaurants. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Favre, Mike Ditka, Don Shula and locals like former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott and the Rays' Evan Longoria — the list is long, but in many cases the real connection to the celeb is tenuous.

Not so at Ava, according to Stewart.

"Joe came into 717 South in 2006 and we've become extremely close friends, more like family." In 2009, they launched an annual "Thanksmas" event supporting local shelters and "from that night forward we've talked about doing a restaurant together."

With 5,600 square feet and 200-plus seats, Ava will be a quantum leap from Maddon's family's Third Base Luncheonette in Hazleton, Pa., where he worked as a teen.

By his own admission as being not as well-versed in Italian wine as American and Spanish, Maddon has still contributed aesthetically to the soon-to-debut Tampa project.

"The tile behind the oven, I chose that. The atmosphere will be pretty cool, with (Hernández) carrying on conversation with people seated at the bar as he pulls things from the oven."

Hernández, who grew up in Sarasota, aims to bring something new to South Tampa with Ava: With a reliance on housemade salumi, bread and pizza, Ava will traffic in rustic, ingredient-centric dishes.

Still, with the trials of his pitcher's trade today, how was Maddon able to chat about his must-have menu items like sausage and peppers?

"I'm able to put stuff down, to decompress. I meditate every day."

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

Joe Maddon helps give first taste of his much-anticipated Tampa restaurant 07/31/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Luis Flores, executive chef at Ciccio Restaurant Group, prepares an Impossible Burger at Epicurean Hotel's Food Theatre. Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that will launch on Sept. 27, 2017 in all the Ciccio Restaurant Group locations, except for Fresh Kitchen. "This burger caters to the carnivorous, not just the vegetarians" said Jeff Gigante, co-founder at Ciccio Restaurant Group. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  3. Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise

    Movies

    Well, that didn't take long.

    After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

    A scene from "The Lego Ninjago Movie." (Warner Bros.)
  4. 'Rick and Morty' Rickmobile is coming to Tampa next week

    Events

    We now have details on when and where Rick and Morty's belching Rickmobile will be when the rolling promo for the cult hit Adult Swim show swings through Tampa on Sept. 27.

    Ricky and Morty fans will head to the Lowry Parcade and Tavern in Tampa on Sept. 27 where a pop-up merch store that will operate out of a Rick Sanchez-shaped truck.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 21

    Events

    Nas: The Illmatic rapper is considered one of the greatest MCs alive. 7 p.m., Jannus Live, 200 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Start at $43. (727) 565-0550.

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17:  Rapper Nas performs onstage during the Meadows Music and Arts Festival - Day 3 at Citi Field on September 17, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images) 775044033