ST. PETERSBURG — It’s been just over a year since Beach Drive NE restaurants Annata and Alto Mare closed.
Since then, fans missing both the seafaring spot and wine and charcuterie darling have peppered the restaurants’ owners with questions, curious to learn when the popular destinations would finally reopen.
Now, following months of construction delays, staffing overhauls and a complete gut renovation, it appears the wait is finally over.
Only thing is, the restaurant is no longer called Annata. Or Alto Mare, for that matter.
Meet Allelo, a new Mediterranean-themed restaurant.
Allelo comes from the team behind nearby 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House. The new eatery is the latest endeavor from asset management group Volet Hospitality and longtime Pinellas County residents and philanthropists Shawn and Jeanna Damkoehler.
The Damkoehlers purchased Annata and Alto Mare from Mazzaro’s Italian Market owners Kurt and Mary Cuccaro in December 2020. In May 2021, they acquired 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, which they took over from longtime owner Steve Westphal.
Running restaurants is new for the Damkoehlers, who don’t come from hospitality backgrounds but consider themselves seasoned foodies passionate about the local restaurant scene.
“I love everything about it,” Jeanna Damkoehler said. “It’s so exciting.”
To help with the day-to-day operations, the couple needed a management team with more experience, so they joined forces with Volet Hospitality. Led by president and founder Jacob Linzey, the company is composed of a team of restaurant and hotel industry veterans.
Allelo takes over the two parcels formerly home to Annata and Alto Mare at 300 Beach Drive NE, Suite 128, which closed in July 2021 due to difficulties with the building’s air conditioning. Since then, the group has been working on extensive renovations, but the process took significantly longer than expected due to permitting setbacks and supply chain lags.
Further complicating things, in early 2022, the group lost longtime Annata and Alto Mare executive chef Joshua Breen. He left the company (along with several former Annata employees) to work at Two Graces, the west St. Petersburg restaurant, which recently shuttered.
Although the initial plan had been to absorb Alto Mare into a larger Annata, the group eventually decided to scrap both brands and start anew.
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“Our initial plan was to take the biggest hits from both,” Linzey said. “But (keeping Annata) just felt like an uphill battle — we couldn’t duplicate it.”
The new plan features some throwbacks to the previous tenants: The restaurant is bringing back Alto Mare’s nautical focus with seafood towers and East Coast oysters, and the menu will still feature a strong international wine selection and house-cured charcuterie.
Beyond that, the menu and overall theme at Allelo are distinct from its predecessors. “It’s got a new identity,” Linzey said.
Barring any setbacks, the owners hope to open Allelo on Sept. 17. Here’s everything to know about the new spot before it opens next month.
The owners hope to breathe new life into a well-worn space, the Damkoehlers said, with a design refresh and a nudge into the future.
Designed by award-winning New York-based firm AvroKO, with architectural touches from local designers, the new space is a far cry from its predecessor’s somewhat dated decor. It’s the first restaurant in the Tampa Bay area to feature AvroKO’s work — the company’s portfolio includes projects all over the world, including restaurants and hotels in Shanghai, Bangkok, New York City, Chicago and London.
Teak woodwork, brass light fixtures, gilded mirrors and a tile-encased open kitchen are just a few of the design accents featured.
The owners took down part of a dividing brick wall, which previously separated Alto Mare from Annata. Now when guests enter, they’re greeted by a luxurious bar area on the right and a cozy dining room lined by plush teal banquettes on the left. In total, the restaurant now has seating for roughly 165 people — that’s down from Annata and Alto Mare’s combined 180, because the kitchen was expanded.
Overlooking the long marble bar is a large mural by local artist Annette Gloomis, which features a backlit swampy scene-setter depicting some of Florida’s most iconic bird species. Outside the restaurant is ample sidewalk seating, lined by colorful tiled planters and banquettes.
Chef Alex Pyser, 31, is helming the kitchen as executive chef, overseeing a menu with a theme loosely centered on cuisines inspired by regions near the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.
Pyser, like several other hires in the group, worked with Linzey at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Dallas. He was most recently the chef de cuisine at Sear and Sea at the JW Marriott in Orlando, Bonnet Creek.
Like Annata, the menu is focused on small, tapas-style shared plates with a selection of pastas, flatbreads and a few large-format dishes.
“My absolute most favorite thing to see in a dining room is people passing plates around,” Pyser said.
In a nod to Alto Mare, seafood still features prominently, and a raw bar includes seafood towers featuring a selection of East Coast oysters, little neck clams, shrimp cocktail, smoked fish spread and an octopus salad.
Though Pyser says charcuterie will still be a highlight, those build-your-own charcuterie and cheese boards Annata was known for are gone. Instead, a daily house selection will include three cheeses and two meats, some of which will be cured in-house.
The small plate menu features several vegetarian options, including a cauliflower dish served three ways. There’s also a grilled octopus (another nod to Annata) served with romesco sauce, potatoes, smoked paprika and chicharron; a snapper crudo seasoned with dill pollen and served with cucumber juice, citrus yogurt, mint and dill; and a hand-cut beef tartare made with shallots, Calabrian chiles, capers, parsley and a jammy egg yolk.
A selection of flatbreads includes a version topped with bone marrow and one featuring prosciutto, figs, Brie, pistachios and radicchio. Pastas include a spin on cacio e pepe made with tuscan kale, mushrooms and Pecorino cheese, as well as a squid ink linguine made with broccolini, preserved lemon, bottarga and panko.
Larger dishes are designed for sharing and include a half chicken served with fennel, citrus and a piri piri sauce; roasted eggplant served with hummus, gigante beans and a citrus yogurt; and whole Branzino served butterflied with quinoa, preserved lemon and a salsa verde.
For dessert, Pyser’s team is working on a lemon custard served with fennel jam, olive oil gel and a gluten-free toasted pasta crisp, made with whipped Italian meringue. There’s also a Spanish-inspired churro dessert served with a chile chocolate fudge, apricot gelee, goji berries and a dulce de leche gelato.
General manager and wine director Michelle Richards is overseeing the restaurant’s robust wine program, which — like the food menu — is inspired by the regions near and surrounding the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. That means everything from Italy to Turkey, Spain, Greece and Macedonia is fair game. But this is Beach Drive, after all, and Richards said there will be a decent selection of North American wines — including several higher-end Napa cabs — on the menu.
Many of the bottles are displayed in a towering 12-foot glass-encased wine cellar, which features roughly 500 bottles. The wine menu features 25 selections by the glass, plucked from the restaurant’s inventory of approximately 1,200 bottles. There will also be a heavy focus on Champagne and sparkling wines, Richards said.
The cocktail program is focused on the classics (Richards’ team spent over six weeks perfecting the restaurant’s gin martini) and includes a carefully curated selection of time-honored drinks. In addition to the lengthy wine program, guests can expect an aperitif and digestif list to pair with the food menu.