All of Nocturnal Hospitality Group’s Tampa Bay establishments have closed after co-owner Lanfranco Pescante was accused this week of posting violent comments on social media that caused widespread criticism.
Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani, of Bravo’s Top Chef fame, announced Thursday he was cutting ties with the group and its Tampa Bay restaurants.
The Viviani Hospitality Group retained the Nocturnal Hospitality Group, a local management company owned by Pescante and David Anderson, to help run several Tampa Bay spots: Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela, the just-opened Shibui and La Pergola, which was slated to open in St. Petersburg this year. Viviani was the face of and a part equity owner in the restaurants.
Nocturnal Hospitality Group also ran Tampa nightclub Franklin Manor.
All of those establishments are currently closed.
Screenshots of Pescante commenting “Just shoot them all” in reference to protesters were shared Tuesday, as were screenshots of text messages allegedly from Pescante that included racial slurs. The comments came amid protests across the country over the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis in police custody on May 25.
Pescante apologized and announced he would be leaving the company on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Viviani publicly severed ties with Nocturnal Hospitality Group and said they had been “removed as the management company from all Fabio Viviani Hospitality venues in Tampa.”
“Also effective immediately, FVH will be working with all the investors and managers to take care of all day-to-day operations," the statement said.
Then, on Thursday, a public relations team working with the chef sent out the following statement:
“In light of the evolving news coming out of Tampa, FVH will step away from Nocturnal Hospitality Group and all associated venues including Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela and Shibui. The FVH team stands solid on our principles and values and will separate immediately and completely. Effectively immediately, Fabio Viviani and his team will have no involvement or ownership in these venues whatsoever.”
Tampa police were investigating the comments made by Pescante, and the case has since been turned over to the FBI, according to a Tampa police spokesperson. A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment, citing the agency’s longstanding practice of not confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.
The abrupt departure leaves the future of several Tampa Bay restaurants up in the air. As of Thursday morning, the websites for Franklin Manor, Osteria Bar + Kitchen and Mole y Abuela had all been taken down. The Facebook page for the group’s newest venture, Shibui, had also been taken down.
All four restaurants have been closed “indefinitely” according Lou Dommer, the Nocturnal Hospitality Group’s CFO and lead investor for the group.
“In response to the evolving situation regarding matters related to Nocturnal Hospitality, effective immediately Valkyrie Investments LLC, the lead investor in the Tampa venues Franklin Manor, Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela and Shibui, will be closing those venues indefinitely until we determine if there is any viable way forward,” said Dommer. “We do not condone or support the actions of earlier this week.”
Viviani was also set to open La Pergola, a modern Italian restaurant, in St. Petersburg this year. He confirmed he will no longer be involved in that project.