Domenica Macchia, most recently at MJ’s Martini Jazz and Tapas Lounge has parted ways with Shackleton’s Folly owner Dan Soronen. According to Soronen and Macchia, this split is partly due to a divergent vision of the restaurant’s concept, and partly as a byproduct of the slow pace of opening (Shackleton’s has been seriously delayed by permitting and construction issues). “I’m a bar guy,” says Soronen. “That’s what I was shooting for, a bar with good quality food.” Macchia, on the other hand, was aiming to introduce Pinellas County to the gastropub trend that has swept American metropolitan areas in the past two years.
While Soronen insists Shackleton’s will open toward the end of next week under new chef William Harrison, with the gastropub concept still in place (with a little tweaking and some of the high-end dishes removed), Macchia has found her next project. Together with Greg Pugh, owner of St. Petersburg’s Ringside Cafe, Macchia is exploring the idea of a downtown St. Pete diner, one with banana splits and eggs all day–but still with the sophistication and culinary ambition that has been Macchia’s signature. “I’m all about the food,” Macchia says. She and Pugh have identified a space, but the deal is not inked as of this moment. Stay tuned. — Mouth of Tampa Bay
This story, in a nutshell, is exemplary of any number of problems in St. Petersburg: the sanguine pacing of the permitting department, the lack of available capital and the cumulative bad taste of the city’s diners. I’ve been on-site at Shackleton’s several times and the city has done nothing but hold up the project, over parking no less (there’s only about a thousand available spots next to the restaurant). The owner of Shackleton’s was also having cash flow projects, because, his critics say, who wants to invest in a restaurant in Coquine Kay.
Worst of all, one of the best chefs in the region still doesn’t have a platform to show off her food. She is better than diner food, however refined. She needs a real kitchen — now.