Ben Franklin told us that nothing in life is certain but death and taxes.
The certainties of restaurant life aren’t too different: (1) Your favorite chef won’t stay put, and (2) Everything’s for sale. Really.
In Charlotte County alone, where the norm was once three to five active bar and restaurant listings, 14 anonymous places recently wore price tags ranging from $75,000 to $2.4 million.
It takes a bit of guesswork to identify some of them. But the identity of others, like “Prime Downtown Punta Gorda Location ... Classic Coastal Restaurant located in a historic Red-Brick tavern building” is no secret. (That listing — Chris Evans’ and Bill Socha’s Blue Turtle — recently sold to New Bedford seafood tycoon Lars Vinjerud II.)
And with hordes of new northern residents moving to paradise in search of ways to spend their savings, “Family Owned Italian Restaurant,” “Bar and Grill for Sale,” “Great Pizza Restaurant” and “Turnkey Restaurant for Sale” won’t stay on the market much longer.
JOSEPH’S DELI HAS NEW OWNERS ... AGAIN
Popular mom-and-pop cafés like Punta Gorda’s Wood Street Grill, Charlotte Harbor’s Morgan’s Café and, now, Port Charlotte’s Joseph’s Deli all recently sold to new owners from Connecticut, Alaska and Minnesota, respectively.
Such manageable, homey places have become more attractive investments than ever.
Originally a New York-style deli owned by a guy named (you got it) Joseph, Joseph’s Deli was once half its size.
The lettering painted on its plate glass subtitled it “Your Hometown Deli” for good reason. Joseph’s had gained a reputation as a locals’ gathering place for a companionable breakfast or lunch. A wall full of Best of Charlotte Readers’ Choice Awards honored its wraps, paninis, soup, deli and lunch.
The catering side handled crowds as big as 130 for one 60th wedding anniversary, and deliveries flew out the door to local offices.
Meanwhile, Paul Yenish had found himself getting burned out running a well-established dinnertime pizza shop in St. Paul, Minnesota. Paul and his wife, Ann, decided to relocate their young family to Florida in 2019. The pandemic slowed the move, but they’re settled now.
A breakfast/lunch spot, he knew, would give him more time with his 2-year-old twin daughters.
“We knew this was the right decision for us because you hear nothing but wonderful things about Joseph’s Deli and its food,” he said.
After 22 years serving loyal customers, surviving Hurricane Charley, and rising every morning at 4 a.m., former owners Jamal, Mary and Willie Hishmeh have moved on to more relaxing chapters in their lives.
They spent two months teaching Paul everything they knew. And much of the staff remains the same, including grillmen Eric and Mike manning the kitchen, and Tara, Lindsey and Taylor at the front of the house.
“We’re not really changing anything,” said Paul, looking around at a counter and signage that have been the same for a long time.
“They built this up as a strong part of the community, with a great crew of wonderful employees. And now that our regulars have met me and seen our operations and our goal to keep serving them for the next 20 years, I think they feel comfortable with us.”
Joseph’s Deli ($, O), 941-629-0822, 3231 Tamiami Trail, Unit A, Port Charlotte, is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Punta Gorda’s new DoughBar Pizza Pasta, which soft-opened Sept. 20, always had pizzaiolo Nick Margiotta spinning dough. He’s from the same Long Island family that operated Michelangelo Pizzeria & Restaurant in North Port, Asaro’s Pizzeria Ristorante in Venice, and Colosseo Pizzeria & Restaurant in Murdock.
You already know the Margiotta family’s famous square Grandma pies, but DoughBar Pizza Pasta also has traditional Sicilian, thin-crust New York and wood-fired pizza.
Margiotta has the Pizza half of the restaurant’s moniker covered.
It’s the Pasta side where Chef John Ellis comes in.
At Punta Gorda’s Wyvern Hotel, Chef John was a master of the mammoth multi-course meal. Not only that, but he’d teach select customers how to create one, in interactive seven-course dinner seminars covering everything from seafood to steak.
Ellis worked for a time with Kathy and Jeff Paradise’s catering firm, Event Elements, where he specialized in barbecued pork ribs and mojo pork.
DoughBar’s Italian specialties — from Baked Clams Oreganata to Linguine Pescatore, Stuffed Flounder, and Steak Milanese — are no challenge for his versatility.
DoughBar Pizza Pasta ($$, O), 520 King Street, Punta Gorda (next to Gatorz Downtown), is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Sunday to Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
BOOKS AND FOOD TRUCKS, BOOKS AND FOOD TRUCKS
Go together like, well, Friends of Shannon Staub Public Library and Food Truck Fridays.
Now that fall is here, so are the food trucks, pulling up to the Suncoast Technical College North Port campus at 4675 Career Lane, just outside the library’s main entrance. They’re arriving this year an earlier hour (11 a.m.) and staying until the last customer has been served at 2 p.m.
The first vendor was the mobile British Open Pub, but other local favorites will roll up soon, including Jersey Shore Crab Cake Company, Grace’s Taste of Poland, two-time “Best of” winner Savor 100x35, Uncle Frank’s Hot Dogs, Wally’s BBQ on the Go, and Chef Hector Cordero’s Red Roc Cravings.
This fundraiser supports programs and events at the Shannon Staub Library.
For full food truck schedule, go to FOSSPL’s Facebook page @friendsofshannonstaubpubliclibrary.
Food vendors interested in participating in Food Truck Fridays should contact Liz Napoli at 941-876-3586.