Callaloo, Pipo’s Cafe open inside St. Petersburg’s Manhattan Casino

Earlier this week, I drove across the Howard Frankland to the reopened Manhattan Casino to interview former Bucs player turned restauranteur Vincent Jackson and Ramon Hernandez of famed eatery Pipo’s Cafe about their new venture, Callaloo. The Manhattan Casino is located in the historically Black neighborhood called The Deuces and is where Black artists could go and perform for audiences. It shut down in 1968 but reopens officially next month.

Here’s an excerpt:

“For decades, the iconic Manhattan Casino was a cultural landmark in the African-American community of St. Petersburg known as The Deuces. The 15,000-square-foot venue at 642 22nd St. S. closed in the late ’60s and reopened with soul food joint Sylvia’s from 2011 to 2016, but is now experiencing a resurgence with two ground-floor restaurants, Callaloo and Pipo’s Cafe, which are in soft-opening mode.

Leading the culinary duo at the city-owned Manhattan Casino is the Callaloo Group — made up of president Ramon Hernandez, vice president Vincent Jackson, director of development Mario Farias, and executive chef Gary Moran. The partners banded together when Farias approached Hernandez and Jackson about launching an eatery in early 2017.

“Ramon is well-established in the community with Pipo’s and was looking at expansion for a couple years. I was looking at this building for another retail project and redeveloping the area,” Jackson said. “Mario reached out to me and Ramon, seeing if he [could] put a team together for a concept mixing my community engagement and development desires with their food and beverage services.”

By this time, Farias and Moran, the chef who opened South Tampa’s late Wimauma in 2011, had known each other for six years when the idea for the new restaurant project surfaced. With an extensive knowledge of multiple cuisines, Moran oversees both Pipo’s and Callaloo, where he’s set to implement fresh techniques in the kitchen.”

To read more of the interview: Inside the Manhattan Casino, Callaloo, Pipo’s Cafe are in soft open mode