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From food to spa and back again

A plan to turn the Primadonna Trattoria building into a day spa didn't pan out. Now a Mexican restaurant is in the works.

Published October 29, 2004

First it was a restaurant.

Then Joe Redner bought the Primadonna Trattoria building in June 2003 and planned to turn it into a day spa.

Now it's likely to become a restaurant again.

Jeff Gigante, owner of Ciccio & Tony's, is talking with Redner about leasing the space on S Howard Avenue for a Mexican restaurant. The deal hinges on wet-zoning approval, which is scheduled to go before the City Council in November, Gigante said.

A strip club owner and County Commission candidate, Redner paid $1.4-million for the 4,100-square-foot building at 915 S Howard Ave. After exploring a business plan for the day spa, it became clear the concept wouldn't fly.

"There wasn't enough square footage," said Toni Derby, director of operations for Redner Enterprises. "After that fell through, I've had many inquiries into leasing it."

The building is across the street from Redner's Xtreme Total Health & Fitness club, which took over the old Primadonna parking lot. Under the proposed arrangement, the club and the restaurant would share parking, Derby said.

Gigante and his business partner, James Lanza, own two other restaurants on Howard - Ciccio & Tony's and Water, a sushi restaurant next door.

"We love Howard Avenue," Gigante said. "Howard Avenue is the little center of our whole universe in South Tampa."

Although restaurants already line Howard, Gigante said there's room for more. The Mexican concept won't take away from his other restaurants, he said, because the menus are so different.

"It's going to be healthy as well as have some really innovative drinks and some cool salsa and guacamole bars," Gigante said.

Gigante, 35, opened the first Ciccio & Tony's in New York City in 1992. In 1996, he brought the concept to the Bay area, where he grew up. Gigante went to high school in St. Petersburg.

Gigante and Lanza operate other Ciccio & Tony's restaurants in Tampa Palms and St. Petersburg. They opened Water in December and plan to add locations in Tampa Palms and St. Petersburg.

- Janet Zink can be reached at 226-3401 or

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