The First Block of Downtown St. Pete has always been a center for nightlife in the downtown core. It’s the epicenter of downtown’s wildly popular monthly First Friday event, providing a little something for everyone at bars such as Mandarin Hide, Five Bucks Drinkery, and Pelican Pub. But many people who visit the First Block often gaze across Central Avenue and see unactivated space.
On the south side of the First Block lies 200 Central, a 26-story, 295,000 square foot Class A office tower that is home to companies like iQor, Merrill Lynch, and Trenam Law, among others. The building is also the tallest office tower in St. Pete and Pinellas County.
While the ground floor was originally envisioned as retail or restaurant space, it has been used as office space for decades. Until recently, the majority of the office tower’s Central Avenue frontage was home to a Raymond James & Associates office.
However this will soon change with the introduction of a high-end Italian restaurant being developed by Nocturnal Hospitality Group and a celebrity chef from Bravo’s “Top Chef” TV show.
Tampa-based Nocturnal Hospitality Group, which also developed Osteria and Mole y Abuela in Downtown Tampa, is led by Lanfranco Pescante, David Anderson, and Lou Dommer. The group is partnering with Top Chef’s Fabio Vivani to create an original concept for Downtown St. Pete.
Their new restaurant, named La Pergola, will take over the 6,000 square foot space that was formerly occupied by Raymond James. It was previously announced that Raymond James would expand into a 20,000 square foot office on the 24th through 26th floors of the tower.
La Pergola will serve authentic Italian cuisine with a lively lounge and bar scene featuring unique craft cocktails. And while this will be the group’s first restaurant outside of Downtown Tampa, one member of Nocturnal Hospitality Group has St. Pete roots.
"I moved to St. Pete as a 17-year-old boy from Italy to follow the American Dream,” said Lanfranco Pescante. “I started as a dishwasher at Lone Star Steakhouse and worked my way up in the restaurant and bar scene. I am beyond excited to go back to where it all started and bring an authentic Italian concept to downtown. The development of St. Pete over these past few years is beyond impressive, and we couldn't be more thrilled to become a part of it by bringing La Pergola to this spectacular location."
Build out of the La Pergola space is expected to begin soon. Once open, the restaurant will activate a formerly underutilized portion of Central Avenue, and will join local favorites such as The Mill and Craft Kafe as ground floor tenants in 200 Central. Also joining them will be Dig In, a new fresh bowl concept by Tampa-based SoFresh.
“We are fortunate to have a landlord with the insight and desire to reinvigorate this former office space into a destination restaurant, a use that better serves the property and the downtown St. Pete community overall,” said Cushman & Wakefield Director Wendy Giffin, who serves as the exclusive leasing agent for 200 Central. “La Pergola is an exciting addition to Downtown St. Pete and a great complement to our existing restaurants and amenity base.”
Provided the project stays on schedule, La Pergola is targeting a Spring 2020 opening. And be sure to stay tuned, as more information about Downtown St Pete’s latest dining concept will be announced in the coming months.