ST. PETERSBURG — Dan Bavaro is on fire. One that's about 800 degrees Fahrenheit and makes crusts extra crunchy.
He debuted his first Bavaro's in downtown Tampa early in 2009, back when opening a restaurant there was a leap of faith. The tiny Neapolitan pizza and pasta spot flourished, then he debuted his line of sauces. A huge hit, they are now in more than 2,000 stores nationally (he just got a contract at Costco for Texas and packs 500 gallons of sauce as a time). In June he opened a second Bavaro's location in Winter Springs, and he nailed a contract for a spot in Tampa International Airport's upcoming expansion.
Next up? St. Petersburg.
"I've been looking at St. Pete for the past couple years and really wanted to be there. I have a lot of supporters who come over from there to the Tampa restaurant," Bavaro said by phone this week. "My wife called me one day and said there was this property."
And thus, Bavaro's will bloom at 945 Central Ave. in what was once a barbershop. His target opening is in February, but permitting and buildout make any dates a bit wobbly.
St. Pete has gotten fairly pizza-dense in recent months: Tony's just opened at 533 Central not too far from Fortunato's and a couple other long-timers, and up on Fourth Street N there's a 'za war of sorts going on between Flippers and Noble Crust. Bavaro thinks there's room for them all, his version emanating from a handmade Stefano Ferrara pizza oven brought over from Naples, and using Bavaro's own 00 flour specially milled for pizza.
Bavaro is enthusiastic about joining the increasingly rich St. Pete restaurant and craft beer scene. But is there room for more pizza in Pinellas County?
"I didn't analyze every business in the area. I go with my gut instinct. But when it comes to Neapolitan pizza, I've been studying this since there was only one store in the U.S."
Contact Laura Reiley at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.