La Viva Plaza’s loss will be Plaza Bella’s gain when the Shrimp Boat makes its move from Brandon to Valrico later this year, filling the space vacated by Cheddar Biscuit, at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road.
Restaurant owner and chef Albert “Al” Paone said in an interview Oct. 29 that he expects to make the move in early December. “They’re not just another food chain and they offer a great variety,” said Matt Creager, who with his parents — Plaza Bella owners Roz Cimino-Creager and Mark Creager — runs the Valrico center’s signature retailer, The Green Boutique. “The food is great, the service is great and they have interesting drink selections. We’re all excited to have them here and welcome them to the Plaza Bella family.”
Paone said he and his wife, Sharon, opened Shrimp Boat Oyster Bar & Grille nine years ago, at 716 West Lumsden Road. It is the eighth restaurant for Paone, who said he entered the business as a 17-year-old in Philadelphia, working at his mother’s tavern.
“Endurance” is what got the couple through the trying economic times of the new century’s first decade, Paone said. And the aim is to continue that run with a larger space — 4,000- versus 3,000- square-feet — in an inviting center for both new and loyal customers.
Paone said the existing Shrimp Boat will stay in operation until moving day.
Every Saturday night, Paone’s son, Albert “Al” Paone Jr., creates and cooks a “Category 4” menu, featuring a premium four-course meal for $26 per person. A recent course from a Category 4 menu featured Roasted Gulf Grouper, Bacon-Fried Brussel Sprouts, Chimichurri/Sweet Onion Glacage, and Sweet Potato Risotto.
Chef Al Paone said he taught his son, who has a master’s degree in statistics, how to cook.
“This is the one business where you can get it right 20 times but you get one dish wrong and people will remember that,” Paone said. “You have to be perfect every time. That’s what makes this business hard.”
But also rewarding.
“My reward is someone telling me, ‘This is the best I ever had,’” after eating a certain Shrimp Boat menu item, Paone said. “If you don’t get that right, you’re just going through the motions.”
Why seafood, why shrimp?
“Everybody likes shrimp,” the restaurant owner said. “If you like seafood, you like shrimp.”
Moreover, the seafood concept corresponded with the family’s move to Florida.
“I just wanted to specialize in something, I didn’t want a generic restaurant,” Paone said. “It’s Florida, seafood works. When people come to Florida, they think seafood.”