Chef Chris Ponte to open new restaurant in Midtown Tampa

By  – Senior Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Chef Chris Ponte‘s fourth restaurant will serve the same sort of food as his namesake Cafe Ponte — in a much more modern, accessible space.

The James Beard-nominated Ponte has committed to a 5,000-square-foot space in Midtown Tampa, where a yet-to-be-named restaurant will serve “modern and elegant American cuisine, featuring steaks and seafood, with French and Italian influences.”

It will have 200 seats and a huge emphasis on wine, with more than 400 bottles on the menu. Lunch and dinner will be served daily, with brunch served Saturday and Sunday. The menu will be “upper scale but affordable,” Ponte said. An open kitchen will be surrounded by glass — allowing guests to watch chefs in traditional toques blanches work but also providing a buffer from the clattering and bantering of a commercial kitchen.

Ponte, who is also a partner in Hyde Park’s On Swann and Olivia in South Tampa, said Bromley Cos., the New York-based developer of Midtown, approached him about a restaurant in the development.

Midtown occupies 22 acres at the intersection of Interstate 275 and North Dale Mabry Highway. It will have a mix of uses, from office towers to apartments to retailWhole Foods Market Inc. will relocate from the nearby Walters Crossing shopping center, on the ground floor of one of Midtown’s apartment buildings.

A team of brokers from Colliers International Tampa Bay — Jim Kovacs, executive managing director of retail services, and Tyler Peterson, director of retail services — represented Ponte in the transaction.

“We feel like Midtown’s going to be a very exciting place,” Ponte said, “and I thought it would be a great fit for me, especially being closer to 275 — it’s easy access to the location.”

Ponte and his family are the sole owners of the Midtown restaurant and Olivia, which is in the works in the former Carmel Kitchen + Wine Bar, as well Cafe Ponte in Largo. Ponte is a partner in On Swann with Trudy Cooper, one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse, and her husband, John, former president of Bonefish Grill.


Olivia was originally slated to open in early 2019; Ponte said delays with his Small Business Administration loan pushed back construction, which is now slated to begin in early May. With a 150-day construction timeline, Ponte said he hopes to open Olivia in mid- to late September.

With the Midtown restaurant set to open in 2020, Ponte said he’s comfortable with the timing of the two concepts. The Midtown location is in the early planning stages, Ponte said, and startup costs could range from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

“Olivia should be six months up and running, even maybe up to a year, before Midtown opens,” he said.

Ponte’s new restaurant is the second confirmed for Midtown. True Food Kitchen, a health-minded concept backed by Oprah Winfrey, will open its first Tampa location in Midtown.

“As one of the most renowned restaurateurs in the Tampa Bay region, Chris Ponte has delivered both imaginative food as well as wonderful hospitality to guests for more than 20 years,” Nicholas Haines, CEO of Bromley Cos., said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with him on the incredible new restaurant he has planned for Midtown.”