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Two new plans for two old sites

A deli and a Tiki lounge will sprout on the former sites of Atomic Age Cafe and Alessi Cafe Beignet.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 2, 2002


YBOR FAVORITES, REINCARNATED: Atomic Age Cafe and Alessi Cafe Beignet showed that only the good die young. Seen by many as Ybor oases of civility and style, they stood in stark contrast to the gonzo bar blitz that prevailed there in the mid-to-late '90s.

Atomic Age, 1518 E Seventh Ave., was a natty mid-century modern lounge with an eclectic menu and cutting-edge live entertainment. Cafe Beignet in Centennial Park was a tribute to New Orleans' famous Cafe du Monde, all black iron railing, chicory coffee and melt-in-your-mouth beignets.

Cafe Beignet closed after two years in 1998 and reopened briefly last year. Atomic Age opened in September 1998, scaled down to bar-only status a year later and was sold in late 2000.

Now the sites of the former businesses are being redeveloped.

Although a concept for Alessidelicatessen is still taking shape, its name already indicates a big change. Goodbye du Monde, hello deli. The building -- a red brick, tin-roofed, black iron-trimmed building completed in 1996 -- remains virtually unchanged.

A joint venture between the families Alessi and Mitow (the latter of Lucky Dill deli chain fame), the restaurant will focus on traditional deli fare, along with bakery staples.

Phil Alessi said breakfast may be considered, but "the traffic is really going to dictate what will happen there." Lack thereof is what forced Alessi to close Cafe Beignet. But the pending TECO Line Streetcar System, scheduled to open in October, will run right in front of the restaurant and makes Alessi "very optimistic." Pending city approval, Alessi hopes to open within a few months.

The puzzling decor changes that came with Atomic Age's abortive afterlife as Acropolis are being stripped. Most notably, the Greco-Roman columns that line one wall are being converted to Tiki poles.

Such things are needed in a Tiki-themed lounge such as Ybora Bora.

The vague connection between this and the old Atomic Age theme isn't lost on Ybora Bora general manager Phil Romano.

Tiki decor was popular in the 1950s; likewise, for mid-century modern. Will one set of cool 1950s vibes feel at home where another once did? Romano hopes so.

But he knows it'll take more than Tiki poles, masks, a grass-skirted bar front and faux torches. So Romano intends to schedule hip art shows and intimate music performances that once packed Atomic Age with Ybor's die-hard arsty types.

The lunch menu will include sandwiches, soups, pasta, wings and deviled crab. At night a roll-out appetizer menu is planned, with a more Pacific Rim theme.

Romano hopes to open by the end of August.

* * *

RAVIOLI COMPANY COOKING AGAIN: Admit it. Your new pasta machine got sent to Goodwill before it ever left the box.

No big deal. You've had your secret weapon, the Ravioli Co. at 2202 W Platt St., for more than a year now. Now the fresh pasta maker wants to be your ace-in-the-hole for those nights when the dinner party pressure is on and there's no time to boil water.

This week, the Ravioli Co. began offering cooked pasta and meats, prepared sauces and salads for takeout. All you have to do is mix and match your pasta to your meat to your sauce.

That could be easier said than done. The Ravioli Co. offers 40 to 60 pastas (depending on the season), eight sauces and several meat and seafood choices for the sauces. Plus five salads.

If you recognize chef Dwight Otis behind the counter, or his wife and restaurant owner, Lauren Otis, then you're probably an old customer from Antipasto's days. The Otises started the quaint, romantic restaurant at the site in 1998. A little over a year ago they converted it to the Ravioli Co. and concentrated on wholesaling their pastas.

* * *

ROOKIE RESTAURANT GETS BIG WINE AWARD: Wine Spectator magazine has bestowed its annual Award of Excellence to a handful of Tampa restaurants. But only one of them is still in its first year of operation, the Palm Restaurant at WestShore Plaza.

General manager Dave Crusoe calls it "a tremendous honor," as it normally takes years for a restaurant to develop the breadth of selection to qualify for a nod from the Spectator.

Part of a 27-restaurant chain that started in New York City, the seafood and steak house decorates its walls with a growing collection of caricatures of local celebrities and regular customers.

The other local Spectator winners are Donatello, SideBerns, Ruth's Chris, Roy's and Mise en Place. Perennial wine giant Bern's snagged the Spectator's highest distinction, the Grand Award.

And they all happen to be in South Tampa.

-- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail citytimes@sptimes.com.

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