CHANGING FACES: NEW CHEFS
St. Petersburg's Rococo Steak has just completed a major expansion into the space that previously housed the Brass Tap. The project brings the restaurant footprint, set in the 1926 YWCA building, to 14,000 square feet and adds 50 new seats. An impressive glass-enclosed, climate-controlled wine room allows Rococo Steak, which, in 2015, was the only downtown St. Petersburg restaurant to be awarded the prestigious Wine Spectator "Best of Award of Excellence," to further broaden its wine offering. The wine room displays an additional 3,000 bottles to diners. Along with these changes comes a new executive chef: Matthew Rainey, right, was most recently executive chef at STK Atlanta, where he was named Atlanta's "Best New Chef" by Jezebel magazine in 2014.
Last week, we announced Pearl in the Grove chef Patrice Murphy has a new vegan-raw project in St. Pete. Back at Dade City's Pearl, owner Curtis Beebe has announced the hiring of new chef Matt Deason, formerly executive chef of the celebrated Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island. There for eight years, this Brooksville native also helped owner Sean Murphy open the Eat Here cafe concept. In 2010, he led a team that cooked at the James Beard House in New York, and in 2013, Deason was named in the Top 100 Best Chefs in America guide.
"Right now, we're still getting to know one another — I'm introducing him to our farmers, ingredients and approach," Beebe said, "and we will plan on doing a major menu revamp in September."
Longtime downtown Tampa lunch favorite L'Eden has a new owner at the helm, 24-year-old Priscilla Vincent. The Paris-native has rebranded the restaurant L'Eden Café & Bar, building on what original owner Marseille-native Gerard Jamgotchian managed in his tiny kitchen since the restaurant's debut in 2007. Located at 500 N Tampa St., the restaurant has expanded on its French pastries at breakfast, with some interesting ooh-la-la lunch additions. Vincent will host a grand reopening party Sept. 18. In other downtown news, L'Eden's neighbor at 510 N Franklin, Urban Juice, which transforms into the Franklin at night, has added a more substantive dinner menu and offers exciting cocktails based on the company's fresh cold-pressed juices. Café European has closed after a long run at 113 Hyde Park Ave., soon to reopen as a pizza concept, and what used to be Kurdi's at 777 N Ashley St. has reopened as the takeout-intensive Falafel Inn.
FOR A CAUSE: NIMAN RANCH
Thursday night, Parkshore Grill's chef Tyson Grant and the Birchwood's chef Jason Cline team up for a five-course meal paired with Chateau Ste. Michelle wines. All proceeds from the $100-per-person dinner will be donated to the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Fund (last year's scholarship winner will be on hand to answer questions). Starting at 6 p.m., the meal features Niman Ranch's pork, bacon, sausage and eggs, and according to Cline, "is for a great cause for the future of humanely raising our animals." Call Parkshore Grill at (727) 896-9463 for reservations.
HAPPY B-DAY: BELLABRAVA
In honor of its 10th anniversary, BellaBrava in St. Petersburg is throwing a one-night "throwback" prix-fixe dinner Sunday featuring items from the restaurant's original 2005 menu and a special cocktail to mark the occasion. It's $10 per person with a two-person minimum. Get nostalgic over dishes like white bean hummus or bruschetta, spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parm and then finish things up with a tiramisu or cannoli.