1. Food

New in restaurants: The Hall on Franklin gets new tenants, O Cocina reconcepts, and local farms get a big boost

Times (2016) Dan Bavaro with pizza and wood-fired oven at Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria located along Franklin Street downtown Tampa.
Times (2016) Dan Bavaro with pizza and wood-fired oven at Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria located along Franklin Street downtown Tampa.
Published Dec. 19, 2018


Dunedin Fine Art Center has launched a food arts program. The idea started to coalesce two years ago as they considered programming and space needs. (One of the center's board members used to be a home economics teacher, so that was the push.) They worked with the University of Tampa's nonprofit management program to develop a feasibility study and business plan. Currently they are building a kitchen space, expected to be completed in January. But for now, they've launched a series of classes cooking on induction burners. You can head over tonight, in fact, for a "Dinner for Two" class taught by chef Renae Seiler from 6:30 to 8:30. Tuition is for two students ($130 for nonmembers, $110 for members), and the class will cover grilled steak with herbed butter, iceberg wedge salad with radishes and homemade blue cheese dressing, and brandied pears with vanilla ice cream. For a list of other upcoming cooking classes, go to


Developer Jamal Wilson has done some tinkering with the lineup of vendors at the gorgeous Hall on Franklin. Heights Fish Camp and Heights Melt Shop are no more (and I'm hearing those folks are working on a new Gen-X themed restaurant in downtown Tampa). Fork & Hen and Sorellina replace them. The concept of Fork & Hen is chef-driven soul food (fried chicken, mac and cheese), with a major focus on local sourcing and in-house preparation, overseen by owner Mark Traugutt. Sorellina is a smaller version of Bavaro's Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, focusing on handcrafted Neapolitan pizzas from a 900-degree brick Italian oven. Sorellina, which means "little sister," will also serve sandwiches, house-made meatballs, antipasti and other Italian stalwarts. Owner Dan Bavaro has always had serious pizza chops, but he just spent some time training in Sorrento, Italy, with Antonio Langone, who holds the world champion gluten-free pizza title. I'm eager to try out a pie at Hall on Franklin, 1701 N Franklin St., Tampa.


A Simpler Place Farm & Market in Riverview has just received a three-year grant from the USDA to promote local foods. They already have weekly local and organic farm boxes, a farm store and a rotating list of monthly events (coffee talks, workshops, kids' farm camps). Owner Renee Watley started in 2013 with a small shed and a walk-in cooler that she packed with produce herself. It has grown to a farm store in a brick-and-mortar building in Riverview, with a kitchen and community event space. The grant will mean expanded store hours as well as additional relationships forged with local farmers, ranchers and Suncoast Compost. Their aim is to grow a robust agritourism program. 9903 Carr Road, Riverview. (941) 504-9378.


You know Worden Farm from the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg? They will now be consulting and managing Gamble Creek Farm, owned by Chiles Restaurant Group owner Ed Chiles. The Wordens, recipients of the Florida Innovative Farmer Award and recognized as Organic Farmer Experts by the Organic Trade Association and the USDA, are shifting Gamble Creek to 100 percent certified organic production. What does this mean for consumers? That much of the produce at the Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant will be sourced from the organic Gamble Creek land. For more information, visit

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O Cocina, owned by Disser Hospitality, the team behind Tampa Bay staples Soho Saloon and Bel Mar Tavern, has been put to bed, and in its place Guac Tequila and Tacos will debut at 4100 Henderson Blvd. in Tampa. The objective is to take things in a more casual direction in the 4,000-square-foot space, with familiar Mexican fare (tacos, as well as the namesake avocado fetish food, natch) and lively mural work by local artist Kaylin Hovance. Oh, and there's a 4-pound burrito; if you eat it all, you get a free T-shirt.


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