Earlier this summer, the Columbia Restaurant Group announced the launch of a new Sicilian-inspired concept in Ybor. The wait to try it is over. The forthcoming Casa Santo Stefano is making its debut Thursday, Nov. 19, at 1601 N. 22nd St., just right across a parking lot from its sister concept Columbia Restaurant (where Ivanka Trump recently learned how to knead Cuban bread).
“We always said we’d open when we’re ready, and now we’re ready,” Richard Gonzmart, fourth-generation caretaker and president of the Columbia Restaurant Group, wrote in a release. “We’re still working on a few things, but we’re confident we can provide a great experience and amazing Sicilian food at Casa Santo Stefano.
Casa Santo Stefano is taking over the former historic Ferlita Macaroni Factory, according to a release, "Casa pays tribute to the wave of immigrants who—along with the Cubans and Spanish—helped build Tampa and Ybor City."
“I wanted to recognize the contributions of these brave immigrants,” Gonzmart said. “Some of them came to a new country with less than $10 in their pockets. And they touched every aspect of Tampa’s business and culture. They came looking for America and instead helped create it.”
Gonzmart explains that Casa's menu also reflects treasured memories of his childhood with friends, family and, of course, food.
“I grew up eating Sicilian food on Sundays with my best friend Vince Palori and his Nana Maria Guagliardo,” Gonzmart said. “That’s what I want to recapture with this restaurant: The meals cooked with love. The pastas, sauces, meats and seafood. And that feeling of family. It’s a look back to Sunday suppers, simpler times and shared stories.”
We are days away from holding the menu which features maccheroni (pasta), steaks, seafood, scacciata, salads, soups, desserts and hundreds of Sicilian wines. Sounds prime for a date night out. Just a heads up, upon opening, Casa will solely offer dinner service from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. daily. The restaurant plans to offer lunch service at a later undisclosed date.
Foodies, be on the lookout for the finishing touches, including an edible landscape garden, as well as Nana’s House next door for private parties and business meetings. Oh, and another rooftop escape for Tampa Bay called Santo’s Drinkeria serving as a more casual dining spot and party space.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Gonzmart shared. “But more love than labor.”
As far as precautions go for COVID-19, the Casa team is opening with health and safety in mind for both employees and guests. Social distancing guidelines will be in place, servers will wear masks, and guests are asked to wear masks to and from their tables.
“Our first priority remains the health and safety of our guests and staff members,” Gonzmart said. “We take this responsibility very seriously.”
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