ST. PETERSBURG — Central Avenue just got a little less spicy after Nitally's ThaiMex Cuisine announced it will be closing its Central Avenue location and seeking a new home after May 20.
Known for its Inferno Soup Challenge, Nitally's combines spicy Thai food with hot Mexican cuisine, a reflection of the diverse couple that runs the restaurant.
In a Facebook post last week, the fusion restaurant announced the building at 2462 Central Avenue — which was built in 1926 and houses the restaurant — has been sold.
As a result, the couple must vacate the familiar red building with large glass windows and find a new home.
Owner Ally Valdez said the restaurant's next step is still up in the air, but he and his wife Nit have received so much support from the community that they are pushing to reopen at a new location.
"When we got the news, we were in full depression mode," Ally Valdez told the Times. "We knew it would happen one day, but not like this. We thought we'd have to get 9-5s again; we thought we'd be isolated and left out."
"But then we posted an announcement online and the community stepped up. We've got a whole new feel for what we need to be doing. There's just too much love to walk away."
Valdez learned to cook with his family when they ran a street-food cart in the heart of Mexico. His wife, Nit Junta, and her family owned a cafe in Thailand and it was family tradition to work behind the counter. Junta and Valdez moved to St. Petersburg to pursue degrees in marketing and engineering, respectively.
They found their regular jobs weren't as satisfying as the little tent they set up at the Saturday Morning Market where they sold their fusion food.
And pretty soon, people started asking them to open something Monday through Friday, Valdez said.
The couple opened Nitally's ThaiMex Cuisine around 10 years ago inside the Grand Central District, and they said a lot has changed since.
"A lot of the time, you just put your head down and you cook and things go on around you. You don't realize the impact you've had on the community," Valdez said. "We just kept growing and growing and growing. We didn't realize how much we've grown, but now we have 2½ weeks to pack up and figure things out."
Valdez said he's seen the revival of the Grand Central District and isn't surprised to see the property — appraised around $281,000 — sell to an unnamed buyer for $670,000, according to the real estate site LoopNet.
The closing is set for June 1, according to a post on the restaurant's Facebook page.
Now, forced to move at a faster pace than expected, the couple is talking about changes to improve the restaurant — or at the very least adapt to what could be a smaller space.
The restaurant has recently announced it will be open on Sundays for the rest of the month. The owners also are discussing the possibility of offering delivery so customers can still get their hands on a spicy curry burrito.
But Valdez wanted to reassure people that Nitally's wouldn't be gone for good.
"More than anything, we want people to understand that we didn't sell the business," Valdez said. "There's a lot of misinformation and we just want people to know that it is still Nit and Ally and even in the transition, there may be some changes, but it will still be the same flavor and it will still be us."