|New grill takes over at prime location|
He's been a restauranteur for three decades, in charge of multiple operations simultaneously, including Fort Myers Beach landmarks the Junkanoo and its neighboring Fresh Catch Bistro. Indeed, Alfredo Russo has been around the block.
Still, he was beaming and giddy like a new dad Friday as his new endeavor, the Sunset Beach Tropical Grill and adjacent Playmor Tiki Bar, held its grand opening.
"This is so wonderful," shouted Russo over the live music and din brought by a packed house despite a daylong drizzle. "This is emotional, because this will probably be my last grand opening. This community has been supporting me for 30 years, and here it is again."
The event featured live music by the N2L Trio and a live remote broadcast by BOB FM.
The restaurant, located at 1028 Estero Blvd. in the heart of Times Square, features a traditional American fare with an emphasis on seafood. Recently remodeled including the building of a massive deck, the setting provides for an end-to-end open view of the Gulf of Mexico and Fort Myers Beach's iconic pier.
"I'm so proud to bring this building back to life, with its huge history going back to the 1930s," said Russo, who patiently waited out several delays in the remodeling of what had previously been the Top O' Mast. "It's an important part of the beach."
The tiki bar itself was moved there in the 1950s from its location on the bay, where during World War II it was built behind the old elementary school and served as a lunch area, according to the history described on the restaurant's website.
Local resident Linda Wenstrup was among the patrons, having first stumbled upon the restaurant when it first opened its doors Nov. 6.
"What a wonderful setting and we had excellent food and service, too, so we wanted to bring some friends to see the place," she said. "So here we are, and we had no idea all of this was going on. It's all very exciting."
Russo worked the room, greeting diners, only to be interrupted by a congratulatory kiss on the cheek from Christine Wolf, his company controller of 20 years.
"I'm so happy for him," she said.
Russo, who turns 60 in January, said he'll cherish this final go-around in the restaurant business.
"The next grand opening I'll attend will see me on the other side of the bar," he said.
Sunset Beach Tropical Grill and The Playmor Tiki Bar
Where: 1028 Estero Blvd. in Times Square
Hours: Daily, lunch 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bar food served until midnight.
Fare: New American
Live music: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Contact: call 463-1028 or visit www.sunsetbeachtropicalgrill.com