ST. PETE BEACH — Natalie Roche visits each table, coffee pot in hand, doling out refills while checking in on customers.
Dressed in a long black-and-gold dress and sneakers, her inquiries are sprinkled with smiles and anecdotes: So nice to see you again — is the omelet to your liking? Isn’t that quiche delicious? Good choice getting the croissant sandwich.
When they pick up on her accent, guests ask Roche about her background. She proudly tells them about her home in Corsica, a French island off the coast of northwestern Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, and her town, Ajaccio, which was the birthplace of Napoleon, she says. Customers love that.
Roche and her husband, Mickael, are new in town, but you’d never know it while dining at their restaurant La Croisette, a St. Pete Beach breakfast institution that reopened earlier this year. The restaurant is consistently packed, with weekdays averaging roughly 300 customers a day and another 500 to 600 on weekends.
Regulars welcomed the return of La Croisette, which opened in 1986 and closed shortly after the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Besides the ownership and some cosmetic touchups, not much has changed.
For more than three decades, everyone knew the spot on the corner of Corey Avenue and Gulf Boulevard as Beverly’s La Croisette, or, simply, Beverly’s. Beverly Pedaggi took over the restaurant from the original owners, Antoine and Marlene Pedaggi, around 2000. The casual breakfast hub garnered a loyal following from locals and tourists for its pancakes, omelets, crispy home fries and well-worn charm.
In July 2020, Pedaggi sold the business to the Roches, who were living in France at the time and looking for new business opportunities. On a trip to St. Pete Beach, they fell in love with the area and with the original La Croisette.
With the purchase of the restaurant, the couple — who have two young children — saw a chance to escape some of the pandemic hardships in Europe at the time.
As Mickael Roche put it: “We believe in the American dream.”
Their dream took a year to actualize, as the building underwent significant renovations while the restaurant remained closed. Maintaining the traditions of the original restaurant was a priority. When they reopened in June, the couple made an effort to rehire what former employees they could find, including some of the longtime servers and kitchen staff.
Now painted bubblegum pink with bright blue awnings, the building features a colorful mural from local design team Vitale Bros., which beckons to anyone driving or walking through the small downtown strip of St. Pete Beach. Inside, the dining room features a cozy, casual vibe, with a register up front sidling a large glass case displaying pastries like croissants, pain au chocolat and Danish.
Outside, potted plants line a large, shaded patio — a welcome addition for guests cautious about dining indoors and a lovely spot to spend a weekend brunch over a mimosa or two. (The restaurant also serves Bloody Marys.)
Though the menu has changed slightly, much of it has stayed the same. Omelets are still the highlight, including the Poseidon, which comes filled with smoked salmon, cheddar, onions, tomatoes and capers. A long list of Benedicts includes versions like the Florence Benny (avocado, Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese, spinach and mushrooms) and the Frank’s Benny, which comes with sausage on a biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. A solid selection of all-American breakfast staples like pancakes, corned beef hash, country fried steak and chopped sirloin and eggs still features many of the restaurant’s original recipes.
Then, there are the French-inspired dishes, a welcome addition from the new owners that have proved popular with many longtime regulars. A daily crepe might come filled with fresh fruit or chocolate and bananas, while warm, flaky, buttery croissants are sourced from a French baker in New York. Those croissants form the infrastructure for several breakfast sandwiches, including a classic version folded around melted cheese, bacon and eggs; one featuring fried chicken, scrambled eggs and American cheese; and a lunch-leaning version with turkey breast, bacon, tomatoes, avocado and greens.
Though a big part of the draw at La Croisette is the charming atmosphere and beachgoer breakfast crowds, you can also grab an iced coffee and a pain au chocolat from the to-go counter and take your breakfast to the beach.
The old La Croisette was closed only on Christmas Day. The new one is open daily, but Roche said he’s not sure whether they’ll continue that tradition. One of the reasons the couple chose Florida was so Natalie could fly back to Corsica at least once a year. The flight from Tampa is significantly shorter than a trip from, say, California.
But for now, breakfast — and lunch — are still served every day.
If you go
Where: 7401 Gulf Blvd., St Pete Beach. 727-851-9845. facebook.com/lacroisettestpbeach.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily.
Prices: Omelets, $10.30 to $12.90; Benedicts, $11.25 to $12.90; French toast and pancakes, $8 to $9.50.
Don’t skip: Spinach and cheese omelet, home fries, pain au chocolat.
Details: Takeout available. Credit cards accepted. Outdoor seating. Some vegetarian options.