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Restaurant spiced with Lebanon, Guatamala

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2002


BLACK BEANS AND SPICE: Virginia Park's leading -- okay, and only -- Mediterranean/Latin restaurant, Olive Grove, recently added breakfast to the fare. They billed it as Guatemalan breakfast (refried black beans, plaintains and cream, fried eggs with tomato sauce, Andalucia omelets) and Lebanese breakfast (manoshe -- open-faced baked pies with ground beef and spices).

You'd think the owners are a married couple, one Lebanese, the other Guatemalan.

There we went and gave it away.

Ickanel Toledo and Omar El-Moghrabi opened at 3424 S Dale Mabry Highway in November. Their brightly painted building boasts Spanish-Mediterranean food, but Cuban-Mediterranean is more like it. Rice and beans and yuca frita (fried casaba) are offered along with Lebanese staples like shish kebab, hummus, baba ghanouj (eggplant dip) and kebbeh.

WHAT HAPPENED TO RAMON'S? The perennial South Westshore Mexican restaurant recently closed and is sporting a new Caribbean color scheme. JR's Floribbean, a Seffner barbecue, grill and hot sauce shop, is scheduled to open its second location at 3413 S Manhattan Ave. on April 1.

JR's won't serve the uptown (and sorely missed) Floribbean cuisine as purveyed by the defunct Boca in Ybor City or former Mojo on Davis Islands. It'll be more like the rootsy Floribbean that fans of North Tampa's Skipper's Smokehouse recognize: frog legs, fried gator tail, catfish, smoked mullet, grouper and barbecue pork, chicken and beef. The atmosphere will be rustic Florida and Caribbean.

CATERERS ALLEY: Such is Manhattan Avenue, or so it seems. Creative Catering opened in December. It shares space with Arco Food Service Supply Inc. at 4318 S Manhattan Ave. Partners there include Sharon Gentry, former sales manager at A La Carte Event Pavilion, and former catering director at Avila Golf and Country Club; Daryl Baer, founder of Outback Catering and part owner of SoHo landmark Old Meeting House; and Arco owners Robert and Joey Lynn.

One of the better known names in local catering, Rita Carlino, will move her Carlino's Catering business to the site of Rebecca's Catering, 3415 S Manhattan, by the end of February. Carlino recently ran Palmetto Beach's historic Seabreeze Restaurant, and Carlino's on Seventh, site of the former Boca in Ybor City. They both went out of business last fall, and Rita says she wants to get back to her catering roots. Some of her time-tested favorites will return to her catering menu, including chicken walnut salad, tarpon salad and chocolate chunk cookies.

She's currently the chef at Marcelina women's club in Hyde Park North.

IT'S PRONOUNCED "SUGAR CUBED," though the sign at 4110-A Henderson Blvd. says Sugar3. Get it? No? Then what about handmade cakes, cookies, petit fours, candies, tarts, trifles, all made from scratch, often with French Valrhona chocolate? Or you can belly up to the chocolate bar inside for plated desserts, other sweets and gourmet coffee. Thievery Corporation, Massive Attack, Tricky or Miles Davis will provide ambience, along with the artwork on loan from the University of Tampa's Studio F.

There's an explanation for this attention to detail. Business partners Roger Chamieh, Paul DeMeze and Kim Yelvington all used to work at Bern's Steakhouse (or in DeMeze's case, Sidebern's). Yelvington, in fact, was a Bern's pastry chef.

If you're thinking Valentine's Day (and shouldn't you be?), Sugar3 can gift box it wares. On that day they're offering a special dessert, an abstract heart masquerading as glazed raspberry chocolate cake.

And yes, they also make birthday and wedding cakes.

- Do you know something that should be Everybody's Business? Call Michael Canning at 226-3408 or e-mail him canning@sptimes.com.

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