COOL COOKIE: SWEET STACK SHACK
What's better than ice cream? Coming up blank, right? Okay, what's better than cookies? Here's the answer: ice cream with cookies. On Sept. 12, grad school friends Clayton Jones and Shane Kent debuted the first of its kind in St. Petersburg. Sweet Stack Shack opened at 1041 Central Ave. in the space that used to be Escape St. Pete. It's an artisanal ice cream sandwich parlor. First you choose your cookies (oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, you name it) or brownies. Then pick an ice cream (cookies and cream, espresso chip, etc., all courtesy of local Working Cow) and toppings (peanuts, Heath bars, sprinkles). Then they will griddle the cookies so they are warm and pliable. You can order everything a la carte if you want to keep things separate. Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. They cater locally and you can place orders online. (727) 685-5000. sweetstackshack.com.
OPENING SOON: OSTERIA
The long-awaited project from celebrity chef Fabio Viviani, above, will open Sunday with limited reservations. Best known for his debut on Bravo's Top Chef (earning the season five "Fan Favorite" title) he opens Osteria on the bottom floor of the new 23-story luxury high-rise Nine15 as a joint project between Viviani and the Nocturnal Group, the group behind Tampa's Franklin Manor.
Viviani already has a number of restaurant concepts: Mercato (six locations); Cafe Firenze in California; Siena Tavern, Bar Siena and Prime & Provisions in Chicago; and Portico in upstate New York. His first Osteria is in the Delta terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. He also has his own wine label, Fabio Viviani Wines, an at-home seafood delivery service, Lobster by Fabio, and an online cooking show, Fabio's Kitchen, on YouTube.
Viviani and partner Lanfranco Pescante also aim to open a Spanish tapas restaurant in the former Fly Bar location sometime in 2019. Osteria will serve traditional Italian food but will also offer burgers and such, beginning at first with only dinner service, lunch to be added down the line. 903 N Franklin St. (813) 563-5000. osteriatampa.com.
The Hotel Zamora on St. Pete Beach recently de-flagged from the Kimpton hotel group and also brought on new executive chef Louis Scaramuzzi, top, three months ago to oversee Castile. Scaramuzzi has been executive chef in restaurants from New York City to the Florida Keys. More recently the hotel took on new executive pastry chef Amy Samples, bottom, who previously worked with superstar chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Todd English. She was executive pastry chef at Olives and at Prime Steakhouse in the Bellagio in Las Vegas for nine years.
SAVE THE DATE: FOOD FIGHT
Metropolitan Ministries puts on one of the coolest culinary events of the year. Back by popular demand, the Tampa Bay Food Fight is a tremendous food event and top chef competition that held at Armature Works Oct. 16 to showcase the talents of the best chefs on both sides of the bay. Two cities, Tampa and St. Pete, will go head to head in a boxing ring during the event to compete for the coveted crown. Two teams of six chefs from each city will compete tag team style in three areas — creativity, presentation, and flavor — to be judged by a celebrity panel (I'm one of the judges this year). Restaurants serving food and drinks on the floor are competing for votes from attendees.
Team St. Pete includes Rachel Bennett of The Peabody, Lee Jasper of Dr. BBQ, Adam Becket of Locale Market, Chris Fernandez of Red Mesa, David Benstock of Il Ritorno, Lee Aquino of the Birchwood, team chairman Stephen Schrutt and captains Ted Dorsey of the Mill and Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill. And on Team Tampa it's Jason Saldutti of Forbici, Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till, James Maita of Sacred Pepper, Felicia Lacalle of Hemingways, Courtney Orwig of Haven, Eric Naval of Boca, team chairman Jeff Gigante and captains Chad Johnson of Epicurean Hotel, Elevage, and Haven, and Michael Buttacavoli of Cena.
All proceeds fund full scholarships for Metropolitan Ministries' social enterprise Inside the Box Culinary Arts Program. Each student in the 16-week classroom and hands-on program gains food preparation knowledge, safety, knife skills, and life skills to propel their careers in the culinary world. Graduates of the Culinary Arts Program now work at some of the area's finest restaurants. The goal is to fund 100 scholarships for 100 at-risk students to obtain 100 new jobs in the next 12 months.
Team Tampa won last year, so maybe this year will be a grudge match. Tickets are $125 (which include all food and drink), available at eventbrite.com.