Given the proliferation of chain restaurants in North Tampa, Candy DeBartolo was eager to launch a bold dining destination.
Opening Tuesday, DeBartolo Holdings' new restaurant, Sacred Pepper, is set to offer contemporary American cuisine with a bit of Mediterranean influence. The eatery, whose tagline is “Food. Flavors. People. Style,” is located at 15405 N. Dale Mabry Highway, where Grille One Sixteen previously operated.
“North Tampa residents no longer have to leave their neighborhood for downtown or South Tampa to enjoy this caliber of restaurant,” general manager Chad Bash says.
Led by executive chef James Maita, the Sacred Pepper menu allows guests experience tastes inspired from around the world, including house-made pastas and sauces, chicken burrata, honey goat cheese baklava, four kinds of pizzettes (or individual pizzas) and cabernet-braised short rib.
The Carrollwood restaurant's name came when DeBartolo (wife of former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.) read about the sacred pepper plant, an ingredient with the ability to transform the food and flavors it touches, in a cookbook.
"We believe that everything that happens around the table is sacred," says Valerie Panou, vice president of marketing and communications for Sacred Pepper.
The idea of a "social soirée," essentially a happy hour, was born from DeBartolo's appreciation for sharing a meal. The daily gathering allows guests to order specially priced cocktails and wine while enjoying shareable plates.
Award-winning interior designer Enrique Crespo helped the owner create the restaurant she envisioned. A reflection of DeBartolo herself, the space resonates with what she calls a "happy" feeling. And with an approachable atmosphere, the inside of Sacred Pepper blends organic and modern elements inspired by Old Florida.
The restaurant's entryway, highlighted by a glass bubble curtain that separates the host stand from the bar, draws guests into the large bar area. Featuring 26 seats, the bar is illuminated by a bubbling water wall backdrop and a custom-made glass chandelier from Portugal. A hollow second story made of pecky cypress wood also floats above the bar, letting in natural light.
For drinks, there's a selection of draft and bottled beer, four wines on tap, and cocktails that explore different cultures and styles with names like Fountain of Youth, Sicilian Sunburst and Make My Mark.
The dining room's terrazzo tabletops are set amongst neutral tones, splashes of cobalt blue and abstract pieces of artwork. Though the 202-seat restaurant will only serve dinner, a 28-seat private room may be reserved outside regular hours for corporate meetings or private parties.
Sacred Pepper plans to operate 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday.