1. Food

New restaurants: Olivia from Chris Ponte, Crabby Bill's Off the Hook

Courtesy of Il Ritorno Lemon honey cake with kumquat gelato.
Courtesy of Il Ritorno Lemon honey cake with kumquat gelato.
Published Sep. 19, 2018

Chris Ponte, right, has been a steady and notable culinary leader in our area for more than a decade with his flagship restaurant Cafe Ponte in Clearwater. A couple of years ago he mixed things up a bit by debuting On Swann in Hyde Park Village in Tampa, co-owned with his wife, Michelle, and John and Trudy Cooper. He's about to do it again: In August, he and Michelle bought the space in South Tampa that had been vacated by Carmel Kitchen + Wine Bar, with the aim of opening an Italian restaurant called Olivia, named after their daughter. They envision it as an upscale neighborhood restaurant (pizza and pastas, with fresh mozzarella made at a demonstration counter) and aim to have it open by February. 3601 W Swann Ave., Tampa.

Opened on Sept. 12, Crabby Bill's Off the Hook is the latest from the Loder family. The Original Crabby Bill's, founded in 1983 by Bill and Dolores Loder, has been a stalwart in Pinellas County and over the years has become a household name thanks to "Crabby" Bill Loder's dedication to his business and community. He died in April. Matt Loder, both senior and junior, have continued his legacy, debuting this new one in Westchase in the space that was formerly the Seafood Exchange. As at the family's other locations, local and carefully sourced seafood is the name of the game, with managing partner Tony Bartolo bringing his extensive background in the restaurant industry. The restaurant will feature gulf grouper and shrimp, alligator tail from Dade City, Cedar Key clams and grass-fed and grass-finished beef from Adena Farms in Ocala. Also look for daily specials, happy hour and live music Friday and Saturday nights on the patio (which is pet-friendly), along with bar games like giant Jenga and cornhole. 9648 W Linebaugh Ave., Tampa. (813) 501-1005.

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Chef David Benstock of Il Ritorno in St. Petersburg will be cooking at the third annual Simmer & Sift event, hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg. The dinner is 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 26, and tickets are $45 per person, $35 for MFA members. Attendees will get to witness a cooking demo, enjoy a signature cocktail and dine on the special menu crafted for the occasion (a seafood salad, followed by oxtail agnolotti and finished with a lemon honey cake with kumquat gelato, pictured). They will also get to take home recipe cards so they can try whipping up one of Benstock's dishes at home. Tickets can be purchased at

A longtime neighborhood restaurant known for seafood and live music, Nauti Nancy's at 700 Eldridge St. in Clearwater has been shuttered. The phone has been disconnected and regular customers said problems with the landlord forced the closure. No word yet on what might go into that space.

TOP 50: Try one of these 50 best restaurants in Tampa Bay

I met Sara Brito, co-founder and president of the Good Food Media Network, at a conference last week. She let me know that she was set to release her annual Good Food 100 Restaurants list, an annual rating and economic report offering insight into the purchasing practices of chefs and restaurants and their commitment to sustainable sourcing.

Conducted in conjunction with the Business Research Division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, an analysis of restaurants' food purchasing data found that the overall food purchases of the 125 participating restaurants totaled $120.1 million. Of this, restaurants reported domestic spending $80.1 million on good food, which translates to a $255 million economic impact on the national good food economy.

Brito's focus is on transparency in food sourcing. Thus far, four Florida restaurateurs have participated in the program, two in Sarasota: Indigenous and Mattison's. Let's hope Tampa Bay restaurants get on board.


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