While the first half of 2021 was packed with notable restaurant openings, the last quarter — usually a booming time for debuts — has been substantially slower than in years past.
What gives? A shortage of lumber and construction supplies, for one. Couple that with a surge in equipment costs, an ongoing labor shortage and further supply-chain setbacks and it’s easy to see how several big-name openings have hit a few snags.
But here’s what that really means: Barring any further delays, a slew of Tampa Bay eateries originally scheduled to open this fall have been pushed into early 2022.
The new year is shaping up to be a blockbuster for restaurant openings. Here are five big food and dining projects we’re particularly excited about.
La Segunda Bakery and Cafe
For the first time, Tampa’s beloved La Segunda is crossing the bay, with a St. Petersburg opening on the horizon for early next year. The iconic bakery, one of the oldest and most beloved purveyors of Cuban bread in the area, will open inside the Holiday Plaza at 2436 Fourth St. N.
At roughly 1,800 square feet, the St. Petersburg location is smaller than the brand’s two Tampa outposts and will focus specifically on grab-and-go orders, delivery and catering operations. The space will also feature enough indoor seating for approximately 40 people and an outdoor, pet-friendly patio with room for an additional 40 seats.
Opening date: Early 2022
Ponte Modern American
When iconic Clearwater restaurant Cafe Ponte closed in 2020 after 18 years in business, fans of the long-running eatery were heartbroken. A combination of pandemic-related setbacks and an expiring lease prompted chef and owner Chris Ponte to part with the space. At the time, the separation was bittersweet: Ponte’s new restaurant was slated to open within the year at Midtown Tampa, after all.
Flash forward a year and a half, and the anticipation for the James Beard-nominated chef’s latest project is at an all-time high.
Though construction setbacks have snarled some of the progress, Ponte now says he hopes to open by early spring. The restaurant’s contemporary, elegant setting will feature a dining room and bar with seating for roughly 220 people and an exposed, glass-encased kitchen where diners can take in the action.
Though the menu is distinct from Ponte’s previous endeavors, guests can expect to see dishes emblematic of the modern New American cuisine and classical French techniques that put him on the map.
Opening date: February or March 2022
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Construction is underway on celebrity chef Fabio Viviani’s latest Tampa Bay project, a coastal Italian tavern in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.
Viviani, who rose to fame after competing on Bravo’s Top Chef, owns multiple restaurant concepts across the country. Taverna Costale is the third planned Tampa Bay concept for the chef. He is also opening two additional locations of the chain restaurant Chuck Lager America’s Grill next year — one in Oldsmar and one at the new Westshore Marina District.
The restaurants signal a returning interest in the area from the popular chef, who in 2020 cut ties to a local management group embroiled in scandal, prompting the immediate shutter of three restaurants: Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela and Shibui.
Taverna Costale, which is billed as an Italian restaurant and bar with an emphasis on seafood, will open in the ground-floor space of 200 Central Avenue and feature an open-air bar directly across from the patio seating at Craft Kafe. The restaurant’s menu will feature “prime cut steaks, homemade pastas, pizzas and (...) signature seafood dishes,” according to the restaurant’s website.
Opening date: Early 2022
Since March 2020, fans of St. Petersburg’s modern Indian restaurant and food truck have been patiently waiting for the brick-and-mortar to open. It looks like the wait is about to be over: Twisted Indian is scheduled to open as early as January at 2639 Central Ave., owner Lokesh Vale said.
Since closing their grab-and-go hub inside St. Pete’s Baum Avenue Market at the onset of the pandemic, Vale has been selling his popular Bollywood bowls and tikka masala tacos from his food truck at events and festivals around town. The new location in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District will allow for some expansion on the menu, which will be very similar to his existing list of time-tested dishes.
Like the spot at Baum Avenue Market, the new restaurant will be counter service only with seating indoors for about 20 to 25 people. And although there won’t be any alcohol served (yet), two new drink additions sound particularly tasty: a Mumbai-style chai tea — called cutting chai — and an Indian iced lemonade called nimbu pani.
Opening date: January or February 2022
Everything opening at Water Street
There’s no arguing that Tampa’s Water Street development is shaping up to be next year’s most exciting restaurant space. At least seven new restaurants have been announced and several others are in negotiations. A better question might be, what’s not opening at Water Street?
The most recent roster of openings announced includes three new food and drink concepts coming to the ground floors of two new residential towers, Cora and Heron.
At the Cora, Tampa’s Cru Hospitality Group will open two restaurants: Small Giant, an Ohio-style pizza spot, and Wine on Water, a wine bar and wine shop hybrid with an outdoor garden patio.
The Pearl, an oyster-focused tavern from the team behind Ocean Prime, will open on the ground floor of the Heron building. The restaurant, which also has two locations in Ohio, will serve craft beer, seasonal oysters, clams and contemporary pub fare in a tavern-style setting.
In addition to those, there are a few previously announced additions to the area including 3 Corners Pizza, a New York-style pizzeria from chef Noel Cruz, slated to open in late spring at the bottom of the Heron building; modern Japanese and sushi spot Noble Rice, from Koya proprietors Eric and Adriana Fralick, which opens in February or March; and Boulon Brasserie, from the team behind Forbici Modern Italian, which will open by summer 2022 on the ground floor of 1001 Water St.
Over at Sparkman Wharf, New York-based Hampton Chocolate Factory will feature locally made chocolates, ice cream, pastries and desserts.
Opening date: Varying dates, from spring to fall 2022