LAKEWOOD RANCH — With offerings of Russian, French and American cuisine already on the table, Lakewood Ranch Main Street is just a few steps closer to completing its culinary trip around the world.
This summer, the shopping plaza will become home to an Italian eatery called Main Street Trattoria. Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty also has leases for a Mexican restaurant and one other dining establishment out and waiting for signatures.
“With all the changes in the retail market, restaurants truly have become drivers at retail centers, meaning they drive traffic to the streets,” Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly said. “(The spaces under negotiation) were all original spaces that were planned as restaurant spaces. We’re just able to secure these deals in 2010. It’s encouraging, not only for Main Street but (also) for the market overall, to have this increased activity.”
Kennelly said his company has worked hard to ensure Main Street has a diverse mix of restaurants for patrons to enjoy and to protect each food genre represented at the plaza.
“We’re always looking for something a little bit different,” Kennelly said. “I think that’s been appreciated.”
The new Italian eatery, which still must be designed and built, is expected to open in July.
A taste of Italy
Gary Fennessy thought he was done with the restaurant industry when he sold his Italian eatery in New Jersey and moved to Florida a few years ago. He was content working at the mortgage business he and his brother-in-law started here until about a year ago.
“I realized this is what I wanted to do,” Fennessy said of opening another restaurant.
He began scouting locations, but it wasn’t until his Realtor located a corner unit on Lakewood Ranch Main Street that Fennessy knew he’d found the perfect spot. About three weeks ago, the deal became official as Fennessy signed a lease for a unit in the retail plaza.
“I like the sense of community on Main Street,” he said, noting the future miniature putt-putt golf course and other businesses that have come in over the last year or so. “It’s really starting to come back. This was the perfect size for me. I like the location.”
Fennessy’s new eatery will be a replica of the restaurant he owned for 13 years in New Jersey called the South Street Trattoria. The concept mimics the historical translation of the word trattoria — a place to eat.
“It was always fresh, simple inexpensive food for the masses,” Fennessy said. “It’s not a traditional Italian restaurant or pizzeria.”
The menu will be the same as Fennessy’s old restaurant, offering everything from thin crust, deep dish and other pizzas to homemade focaccia bread sandwiches, salads, pastas entrees and daily specials. It will even include something else unique to the menu — the favorite dishes of his wife and four children.
“We use the freshest, finest ingredients we can find — local produce and fresh mozzarella,” Fennessy said. “We fry nothing. Everything is baked.”
“The whole concept is simple food,” he said. “Let the ingredients speak for themselves. Let the flavors speak for themselves. In this economy, keep it affordable and make it a fun place people want to come to.”
Fennessy said he is hopeful the restaurant can open sometime in July, but there’s still much work to be done. The unit he’s occupying first must be built-out and designed. Fennessy said he wants to keep the ceilings high, have murals painted on the walls and showcase an exposed kitchen.
“My vision of it is kind of a hip, eclectic industrial look to it,” he said. “The design is still in the works.”
Fennessy plans to offer an outdoor bar, which will be accomplished by raising the bottom part of two front windows, as well as a bar area inside.
When finished, the restaurant will be able to seat about 155 inside and another 50 outside with patio dining. Guests, he said, also will be able to enjoy live jazz or classical music on weekends.
Fennessy said he hopes to get permits this week and to start construction within the next two weeks.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].