Drive by the old Bastas Ristorante at 1625 Fourth Street South in St. Petersburg and you'll notice the building has changed quite a bit. The Vitales (Johnny, brother Paul and cousin Bruce) are almost done with a complete interior and exterior remodel with a quasi-From Dusk Till Dawn theme.
Property owner Philip Farley (involved in Urban Style Flats and 3 Daughters Brewing at 222 22nd St. S.) is behind the project which he calls a "Vitale production." Creative Loafing had reported Monday that Johnny Vitale said Bella Brava owners were behind the restaurant. But Tuesday, Bella Brava owner Mike Harting reached out to CL to say they were not involved directly.
"Some folks from Bella Brava are offering their tutelage in the creation of what we're building here but it's not even formal consulting," Farley said Tuesday.
Farley says Harting helped find chefs to consult on the menu and kitchen layout for El Gallo Grande. That's the extent of the Bella Brava connection, for now.
"We're building it out and we're going to see who will be the final operator," Farley said. "I bought the building a while ago. John and Paul [Vitale] have their studio over by 3 Daughters, so I thought why don't they come over and get involved? And then they came up with this idea."
Named El Gallo Grande (translates to "the big rooster" in Spanish), the interior even contains an ode to Salma Hayek's Santánico Pandemónium. Outside you'll find the bodacious Maria Felix, whom Johnny describes as "Mexico's Marilyn Monroe." Vitale says the project has taken them a little over a month to complete.
"The Vitales had some time to work on it and it evolved into this cool thing," Farley said. "It's cool just watching it happen, watching them work."
With work on the decor and building nearing completion, they are still configuring exactly what the menu will look like and who will run it. Until then, the Vitale à la Robert Rodriguez production is catching the attention of the neighborhood and passersby.
"I'm hoping we get some guys that run it and make it something that's their own, not because me or whoever else is involved tells them to," Farley said. "I feel like the aesthetic makes the space so cool. The Vitales come to me with a project and I tell them 'if you like it, I like it."
Almost everything in the restaurant was repurposed from the original Bastas space, and Farley told CL that "any credit for this concept goes right to John and Paul." No word yet on an opening date for the Bartlett Park spot.
The Vitales are known for the murals at Mazzaro's Italian Market, the Best of the Bay award-winning Ignition
, amongst other film and art projects.
Stay tuned to Potlikker for more details as they develop.
See more photos of St. Petersburg's first Santeria/Grindhouse-esque restaurant after the jump.
This is an updated version of an earlier post.