As new high-rises open in downtown St. Petersburg, new dining options come with them. That is the case for chef Chris Ponte’s restaurant Olivia, which is set to open in the new Ascent St. Pete at 255 First Ave. N next year.
This is the second location for Olivia, which opened in South Tampa in 2020. Ponte owns the restaurant with his wife Michelle and his stepsons Andy and JT Mahoney. Ponte also owns Tampa eateries On Swann, Bare Naked Kitchen and Ponte Modern American.
Olivia’s St. Pete location marks Ponte’s return to Pinellas County. His long-running Clearwater restaurant Cafe Ponte closed in 2020.
With the Ascent St. Pete’s combination of apartments and hotel rooms and its proximity to downtown hot spots including Jannus Landing, Ponte said he thinks it’s a great location for a restaurant.
“It checked all the boxes that we needed for it to work for us,” Ponte said, while noting that the owner has been great to work with and “bent over backwards” to structure the deal.
Olivia’s fare is Italian, but with a modern edge. For example, the cacio e pepe has a Parmesan foam.
Ponte said he built the concept with his Italian friends, who appreciate traditional dishes, in mind.
“It’s a little more modern, but it’s not too far out of the realm,” he said. “If you’re an old-school Italian or young generation coming up, (you’ll) enjoy it. It kind of fits both worlds, I think.”