BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Suntree’s Tuscany Grill has found a new home, and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant space in Viera that has housed a French-American bistro, a steakhouse and Mexican restaurant is getting an Italian makeover.
“I cry happy tears every day,” said Tuscany owner Gina Pierce. “I haven’t heard one negative thing. People are so excited.”
Tuscany Grill’s future looked iffy a few weeks ago when Pierce learned her lease would not be renewed. After 21 years in the Park Place Plaza off North Wickham Road, the restaurant had to move or close.
Through a series of “really nice coincidences,” Pierce plans to reopen by mid-November in a stand-alone building at the Avenue Viera built for Mimi’s Cafe, which served French and American food. Austin’s Chophouse opened in the location in 2015, followed by Tequila Azul in 2016, according to News 6 partners Florida Today.
The last day in Tuscany’s Suntree location will be Oct. 22.
As word got out about the restaurant’s limbo, Mike Shah put Pierce in touch with his son Summit Shah and Summit’s business partner, SK Patel, who own the Viera building.
Pierce felt the larger space was perfect, giving her the opportunity to give Tuscany Grill an expanded bar while keeping two banquet and meeting spaces. She signed a lease, and the work began.
“It’s been empty for two years, so there’s a lot to do,” she said.
Air conditioners weren’t working. Day of the Dead skeletons and bright yellow walls need new paint. Kitchen equipment needs to be replaced.
Plus, Pierce needed new state licenses and permits, and she needed them fast.
The day after Pierce signed the new lease, State Rep. Thad Altman spoke to a group meeting at Tuscany. He offered to help Pierce navigate the Department of Business and Professional Regulation system to get a new liquor license.
“Can’t say enough nice things about how helpful they’ve been,” she said.
Sergio and Ashlin Romano, who owned Tequila Azul, have helped Pierce and her team find their way around the building.
“We’ve had people call and say, ‘We want to help you. We have trucks, we have SUVs.’ I honestly am just completely blown away by it. It’s incredible,” Pierce said.
Pierce’s family and employees have pitched in, too.
General manager Christine Callahan has helped organize the move. Chef Eric Anderson has been splitting his time between cooking at the Suntree restaurant and setting up the kitchen in the Viera one.
Thursday morning, server Emily Rushing was perched atop a mechanical lift rolling primer onto the walls. Ted Hackler, who is married to a Tuscany server, has volunteered IT help.
“My daughter Carrie Callahan is coming out of retirement and is going to be here as an assistant manager,” Pierce said.
Son Alex Pierce is flying in from Colorado to help with the move. Daughter Melissa Pierce, a woodworker, is helping transform the bar. Sons Billy and Brandon Booth and their families have been helping with cleanup. Stepson Sean Bach spent last weekend pulling up cacti around the building.
Sister and brother-in-law Cathy and Roger Crider left Virginia Beach early Thursday with a truck full of tools to work on the renovation.
“It’s a real family affair,” Pierce said. “It’s unbelievable. My job here is to talk on the phone, arrange appointments and buy everybody lunch.”
Though the building is larger than the current Tuscany space, the dining area will be about the same, with seating for 85 in the main dining room, 35 in a small banquet room and 90 in a large banquet room, plus seating for 25 outside.
The restaurant will gain space in the kitchen, which is almost 2,000 square feet, and Pierce is excited about now having room for a cocktail bar.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of specialty cocktails,” she said, and Tuscany will have a daily happy hour.
She also plans to be open for lunch seven days a week instead of just Monday-Friday.
“Basically, our menu will be about the same,” she said, “but the really new and exciting things will be our bar and our bar menu. We can finally have a bar that’s not in our banquet room.”
Pierce originally hoped to open by Nov. 1, but Nov. 16 seems more realistic.
“I have a lot of Christmas parties booked,” she said.
Tuscany regulars already have reservations for Oct. 22, including Pinky Rhuda, who was the first to make a reservation when the restaurant opened in 2000.
All 20 of Pierce’s current employees are moving to the new location, and she’s in the process of hiring 10 more people.
Pierce started the month in despair. Now she’s excited about the future of Tuscany Grill.
“With everything and everybody that’s helping me, I saw a quote recently that really struck home,” she said. “‘Until you have something that money can’t buy, you don’t know the true meaning of being rich.’ And that’s what I have here.”
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