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Health market coming to plaza

HEALTHY DOSE FOR PLAZA: After much speculation, the void at the Palma Ceia Village shopping center has finally been filled.

Village Health Market, a spinoff of Abby's Health and Nutrition on N Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, plans to occupy the bulk of the former Giancola's Market on MacDill Avenue, just south of Bay to Bay Boulevard.

After Giancola's closed in May 2002, a host of gourmet market businesses proposed taking up the space, but none of the deals came through.

Then, last month, the owners of the popular restaurant Pane Rustica announced plans to move into a small section of Giancola's and a storefront next to it.

Dave Levi, co-owner of the new market, says the full-service health store and restaurant should open in six months. It will carry vitamins, supplements, specialty groceries, produce and cosmetics.

The restaurant portion of the store will offer many of the same menu items as Abby's: sandwiches, bean and vegetable salads, hummus, tabouleh, soups and free-range chicken and salmon. A juice bar will sell frozen fruit drinks made from organic fruits and juices.

There will be seating for 30, but the restaurant will be geared mostly toward takeout, Levi said. Business hours will be 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

LIKE WATER FOR SUSHI: Ciccio and Tony's restaurant is embracing another form of wrapped food _ this time sushi _ but it's not using seaweed.

Water, a small adjunct to the enduring eatery at 1015 S Howard Ave., opened last month in Ciccio and Tony's former banquet room. The 1,140-square-foot space has been converted into a chic den tailor-made for netting SoHo scene makers.

The decor is California-meets-New York with pastel walls and dark laminate tables. Sound absorption panels on the ceilings are washed in water-alluding blues and whites. (Thankfully, the owners have also added them to Ciccio and Tony's dining room.)

Water chef Erin Van Zandt has designed a menu that breaks with sushi tradition and jives with the current low-carb trend. Sushi rolls are wrapped in clear rice paper rather than the usual seaweed, and a selection of nonsticky rolls suits those looking to cut carbs.

Van Zandt has also devised the "Water bowl," a variation of the Japanese dan buri bowl that essentially deconstructs the sushi roll and puts it into a bowl, minus the seaweed.

There's also sashimi, nigiri and desserts.

Full liquor service, including nine sake martinis, comes courtesy of C and T's bar next door.

There's seating for 50 inside, including a communal table that seats 12. Another 25 fit on the front patio, which is covered with a translucent white awning and lit with blue and green floodlights at night. Yep, more water allusions.

Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

POPCORN WITH A TWIST: The name sounds simplistic, but the offerings definitely aren't.

Just Popcorn and Candy Too opened Dec. 13 at the new SoHo 500 retail center, 500 S Howard Ave. The goal: highlight popcorn's versatility and its potential as a flavoring platform.

The store offers 50 flavors, including chocolate chip cookie, pizza, bacon cheese, vanilla pecan, grape and fruit mix. For purists, there's a selection of kernels and freshly popped corn and kettle corn. There are also popcorn toppings.

Sweets include various gummy candies, fudge cups, popular movie theater treats and the cleverly packaged "Who's Your Girlfriend" line of cookies and candies.

Business owner Kendall Trosky has thoughtfully accessorized the store with a VCR and toy-equipped kids area and movie posters.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

NO MUSCLE IN XTREME TALK: Rumors in the SoHo district that Xtreme Total Health and Fitness may be closing are just that, says general manager Dave Traynor. The gym is staying put.

"We're doing better than we've ever done," he said last week.

The false buzz may have started when Xtreme owner Joe Redner said a few weeks ago that he would consider building a 20,000-square-foot health club at the Towers of Channelside, a planned $93-million residential and retail project in the Channel District.

"If he opened that one," Traynor said, "he would have two separate health clubs."

Traynor added that Xtreme's membership recently hit an all-time-high of 3,500.

The 37,000-square-foot facility opened at Howard and Morrison avenues in 1997.

_ Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail mikecanninghotmail.com.

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