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A taste of what teamwork does

By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Foodies whooped it for the hungry at the annual Taste of the Nation benefit thrown by Share Our Strength coalition at the Marriott Waterside last week.

Eight local chefs teamed up with New Yorker Don Pintabona to prepare a five-course, $150-ticket dinner using recipes from his cookbook, The Tribeca Grill Cookbook Celebrating 10 Years of Taste.

Pintabona once cooked at the old Sea Wolf Restaurant near Busch Gardens before he went to culinary school and eventually became the chef at New York's Tribeca Grill, started by Robert De Niro, Bill Murray and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Guests grabbed a wine glass and went in search of appetizers from Blue Gardenia, Bonefish Grill, Chandler's Grill, Il Terrazzo and Spartaco Trattoria. An auction of wine, jewelry and gift certificates was silent at that hour.

A huge screen in the ballroom gave the sellout crowd a closed-circuit FoodTV view of the army of volunteers in the kitchen. Two chefs paired up for each course. Scott Fink of the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Don CeSar's Eric Neri started off with "Bill Murray's Great Wall of Tuna." Lavender skewered scallops with white bean and rock shrimp salad came next, from event co-chair Jeannie Pierola, executive chef at Bern's and SideBern's and Rand Packer, chef/partner of Roy's. Marty Blitz of Mise en Place and Ralph Sitero of Bellarte worked on the sweet pea ravioli as Pintabona prepared rack of lamb. Todd Johnson of Mia's and Paul Mattison of Mattison's created the cinnamon vanilla swirled applesauce cake.

"Aloha, aloha, aloha." Packer got the crowd to hush long enough to hear live auction bids by chanting the Hawaiian greeting. Nine chefs, nine special private meals, total tally: $28,850.

Susan and John Sykes, CEO of Sykes Enterprises, kicked in $4,000 for a five-course dinner and wine for 10 at SideBern's (It'll be his first visit).

Debby and Danny Traina popped $1,700 for a Bellarte dinner for six with truffles and flourishes.

Hooting and hollering peaked for a big dinner and in-home private cooking class by Marty Blitz of Mise en Place, which brought $8,000 from engineers Art Andrews and Buddy Henry, an old friend and fan of Blitz.

A gourmet splurge in New York with dinner at Pintabona's Tribeca, and sister restaurants, NOBU, Montrachet, Layla and Heartbeat went for $7,000 from Kathy and Rick Marx. A consultant who lives on Park Avenue during the week and in Tampa on weekends, he knows the restaurants well and quickly tried to get a large table for NOBU's sushi.

Proceeds help the farm workers served by the Beth-El mission for farm workers in Wimauma, children who get hot dinners at Kids Cafes and all the hungry at agencies supplied by Divine Providence Food Bank.

* * *

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: For Gloria Carlino Giunta, Monday's opening of the Tampa Hope Lodge will be a dream come true.

"A four-year dream come true," says Giunta, an American Cancer Society Florida division board member. Giunta, Bill McBride and Priscilla Mack chaired the $8.8-million capital campaign to build a facility for cancer patients receiving outpatient oncology treatments at any area hospital.

In the midst of the project, the dream turned into a nightmare. Giunta was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now the need was personal.

"If a Hope Lodge was available, I wouldn't have been sitting in the waiting room at Moffitt," says Giunta. "I would have been able to use the computer, the telephone, whatever I needed to continue my work."

Giunta recovered and chaired the groundbreaking ceremony for the four-story, 47,000-square foot lodge on the University of South Florida campus.

"It's beautiful, and all the services are free to the patient," she adds.

Giunta and ACS staff member Jill Carey helped decorate the 40 suites, six kitchens, a community dining room and a family game room. There's also a library and laundry room.

"We had a ball," said Giunta, picking color schemes, carpeting and furniture, "even purple chairs in the family room."

Major donors of $100,000 and up include The Giunta Family (Richard and Gloria and Grace) and Glenn and Carole Hooper.

* * *

REMEMBERING ADELA: Hear the love when Angeles Ferlita and Anna Alvarez talk about their friend, the late Adela Gonzmart, known as the Queen of Ybor City.

"Our fathers had been friends forever, but we met in 1950 when I was on the Columbia Restaurant's float in the Gasparilla parade," says Alvarez. "It was their first float."

Angeles Ferlita lights up when she speaks of Gonzmart, her friend for more than 30 years. "I knew of the Columbia Restaurant -- and of Adela -- from the time I arrived in Florida, when I was 11."

Over the years, the women grew close, as did their husbands. The families celebrated countless holidays together. Anna always gave Adela a big birthday party, for 23 years.

Leaving Gonzmart's funeral in December, Ferlita and Alvarez decided to immortalize their friend and mentor by commissioning a bronze likeness of her. They told her sons, Casey and Richard, who loved the idea.

Sculptor Steve Dickey has begun preliminary sketches of the bust to be placed outside the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, near the bust he sculpted of Cesar Gonzmart playing the violin.

At the suggestion of Alvarez' grandson, Sam Slone, 11, Adela will wear a brooch of a piano.

Fundraising begins with a lunch on June 14, which would have been Gonzmart's 82nd birthday. The goal is $10,000 for the bust, pedestal and installation.

Melba Hero, Adrienne Garcia, Cookie Priede, Evelyn Rodriguez, Mary Alvarez, Sheree Slone, Tish Bohner and Marilyn McPhail are helping sell tickets.

"We want everyone who knew and loved Adela to come and celebrate," said Alvarez.

Artist Dickey will be there and Mario DeLeon, who used to accompany Cesar, will play his accordion. Tickets are $50, with 100 percent going to pay for the sculpture. For more information, call 610-8327.

-- Times restaurant critic Chris Sherman,, contributed to this column. To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or


TONIGHT: Thomas Wilkins Roast & Toast dinner, 7 p.m.; Hyatt Regency Westshore; $75; 286-1170, Ext. 273.

SUNDAY: An Asian Party, benefit for Florida AIDS Action and Florida AIDS Memorial Park; 5-8 p.m.; Profusion, International Plaza, $200; 232-5886.

June 8: Celebrity Elegance auction gala benefit for the Fortune Education Foundation; 6 p.m.; Wyndham Harbour Island; $60; 936-9090.

June 8: Sea Grapes, wine tasting and gourmet sampling, music and silent auction to benefit veterinary and education programs at the Florida Aquarium; 7-10 p.m.; $40, members, $45, nonmembers; 273-4568.

City Times: The rest of the stories
  • The party starts at 4:15
  • Businesses to open on Kennedy Boulevard
  • Who has control here?
  • A taste of what teamwork does
  • Relearning a lost art
  • Home exemplifies prairie-style
  • Sears sets up shop in Dillard's place
  • Bike lanes dropped from road project
  • Bank to redevelop Tampa Heights
  • Partying for AIDS park
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