Destination: Duncan Road

A year ago, Pamela Trout‘s North Port garage was full of more than 150 hand-rendered color portraits, purchased at a local estate sale.

At the time, she said, “What was going to happen to them if we didn’t buy them?” She wished only to return them to their rightful owners.

Then Pamela — co-owner, with husband Calvin, of the future Smuggler’s Cove Tiki Bar & Restaurant on Duncan Road in Punta Gorda — found herself in a parallel situation.

Their garage overflowing with the portraits and with materials for their new bar, the couple filled two storage units with light fixtures, barstools, bamboo slats, a bamboo garden border and countless other building supplies.

“Somehow, due to a clerical error,” Pamela said, “one of the units ended up being auctioned off last October. Whoever won the contents of our unit must have been completely bewildered about who owned it. Is there anyone out there who knows who purchased Unit 106 and what they did with the contents? We are willing to compensate the purchaser, but would really like our things back.”

With or without the stored goods, the Trouts are moving right along with their long-awaited Peace River venue.

“We used to own a beach bar at Smuggler’s Cove in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Pamela. “So when we saw this place was for sale two years ago, we thought, oh, this is going to be so much fun!”

Little did they know.

Once home to a lookout tower in the 1920s and, later, a tiki bar, the place had long been a visitors’ destination but was destroyed by Hurricane Charley and lay derelict ever since.

Remaining onsite structures had to be demolished, while engineers planned a kitchen and bathrooms separate from the main tiki. The Trouts purchased and rezoned adjacent lots for parking and a larger septic system, and developed a landscape plan for the sprawling property.

Countless permits ensued, from Charlotte County Stormwater Management to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Once the final site plan is approved, actual building permits can begin

“It has been a long (and expensive) road,” said Pamela. “But we are still looking forward to being open and getting to meet all of you who have kept us going this long.”

They plan a full restaurant and liquor license, serving until 10 p.m. most nights and later on weekends, with a separate tiki just for live music.

“We think the area needs something that stays open a bit later, especially for food,” Pamela said. “We want this to be a destination spot where people can spend the afternoon and have fun.”

The neighbors agree Smuggler’s Cove Tiki Bar & Restaurant ($-$$), 4043 Duncan Road, on the Peace River and U.S. 17, hopes to open in December or January. And if anyone knows where their stuff is, Pamela can be reached at 210-760-7664.

Panuozzo al Taglio As if its uniquely light and crispy Roman pizza, proofed for 96 hours, weren’t enough, Port Charlotte’s Taglio Pizzeria & Cucina Romana has just introduced the area’s first 72-hour-proofed panuozzo.

To the casual observer, panuozzo might look burnt, but the toasty, aerated Neapolitan-style bread makes the perfect stocky pocket to fill for paninis. You can order it at Taglio or buy some to take home.

“Bread is not an easy task here in Florida; you guys nailed it,” said The Celtic Ray’s Max Doyle after downing his first meatball panuozzo.

Taglio Cucina & Pizzeria Romana ($-$$), 941-628-ROME (7663), 24065 Peachland Boulevard, Unit 103, between Tropical Smoothie Café and 3 Pepper Burrito, is open Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage. Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com.

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