Inside a building in St. Petersburg, works of art from around the world gather like good friends. Georgia O'Keeffe's Poppy hangs not far from Paul Cézanne's A Corner of the Woods, Pointoise. Claude Monet's Houses of Parliament gives a glimpse of faraway lands, while Thomas Moran's Florida Landscape stays closer to home.
With a range of permanent and rotating exhibitions, the Museum of Fine Arts seeks to engage visitors with art while preserving the pieces in its care. Much of the collection resides in an original 1960s building, but an adjacent modern gallery draws in visitors with special exhibitions, an art library, and interactive educational facilities—ensuring they have plenty of ways to experience art or at least overcome a fear of informational plaques.
Who They Are
Even before the Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1965, founder Margaret Acheson Stuart saw its galleries as a space where diverse audiences could explore art "from antiquity to the present." Architect John Volk had designed the original museum wing to instill visitors with a feeling of solidness and permanence. Decades later, the museum sought to expand, and conducted a nationwide search for a worthy architect. They were rewarded with designer Yann Weymouth, who completed a second building in 2008—a two-story, modern glass conservatory.
The brick walls of Jane Aberro's pizzeria are covered with autographed photos of celebrities such as Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, each scrawled with lines of encouragement for the restaurant Aberro opened in her hometown of St. Petersburg. After working in show business in Los Angeles, Aberro decided to return home and open a pizzeria with partners, eventually taking the helm herself.
Inside, the manager gathers orders from customers, joking with a light Texas drawl while carefully monitoring the pizza, sandwiches, and soups. Behind the counter, cooks knead dough made from scratch, pour on house-made sauces, chopped herbs, and custom toppings, then fire pies in the oven until the crusts become golden and crisp. Aberro believes that what sets her pizza apart is the quality of her hand-selected ingredients, especially when it comes to her favorite component, cheese. She said the calzones are one of her favorite dishes because of the amount of cheese in each bite, noting, "even if you are used to eating cheese out of a can, you can taste the difference that the fresh cheese makes."
Aberro's attention to detail led to her personally designing the store's logo, hanging up the eatery's photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge, and following up with her customers. Open until 3 a.m., the pizzeria transforms from a cozy lunch spot into a well-oiled machine, rapidly producing slices for the late-night customers who line up around the block after leaving a nearby concert venue.
Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.
Tour de Pizza reimagines a traditionally hearty comfort food as a part of a healthy diet, with chefs creating mouthwateringly fresh pies from wholesome veggies, olive oil, and roma tomatoes. The restaurant takes its name from owner Matt McClellan's 2008 bike journey from St. Petersburg to New York, which saw him stopping at pizzerias on the way to prove that pizza can be part of a health-conscious lifestyle and not just the food of choice for couch potatoes or rebellious cartoon teenagers. Diners can sink their teeth into pizza that McClellan ate on his diet such as the traditional margherita pizzas topped with slices of roma tomato and slivers of fresh basil, or sample a Pearsciutto pie crowned with pears, prosciutto, and gorgonzola cheese.
In addition to supping on the handmade breakfast and dinner pies that constitute McClellan's 30-day pizza diet, guests can munch on stuffed strombolis and meatball subs, or jump-start their appetites with savory garlic knots and cheese bread.
Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill sprang from humble beginnings. What started in 1992 as a concrete-block space with 75 seats has since grown into a two-story establishment whose sprawling indoor and outdoor seating areas encompass almost two city blocks. Like the growth of the business, the bar and grill's building materials reflect input from the surrounding community: the wood flooring was compiled from area gymnasiums, and the walls are paneled with hardwood from the old All Children's Hospital.
Owner Mark Ferguson continues to fuel his success with more than 70 TVs, classic bar eats, and a calendar filled with live-music and trivia nights. In addition to fans, the restaurant has been known to serve renowned politicians and—according to the Tampa Bay Times—Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Perhaps the duo chose the eatery for its paparazzi-curbing underground tunnel, which leads beneath 1st Avenue South to the stadium.
String lights glimmer on the hunter-green walls like stars through evening foliage. A large mural depicts a distant city against a burgundy-and-gray dusk. Some of these accents date back to Cafe Vienna’s inception 40 years ago, but the torch has since been passed to Tony Klobuchar, whose son Steve mans the kitchen. From those clattering confines spill the aromas of time-tested Austro-Hungarian cuisine, including steaming bratwurst platters and marinated herring. Though the servers move quickly, there's much that goes into the preparation of these dishes; tender beef-loin sauerbraten, for example, marinates in traditional spices and red-wine vinegar for a minimum of five days. Above plates of grilled pork schnitzel, imported German brews from Spaten and Franziskaner crash together, sending flecks of foam to tablecloths in the deep red hues of a fire truck that has been driving around with hair curlers on.