Coming Soon Inside One of the City’s Oldest Businesses
Sometimes the most unlikely of pairings make for the most memorable experiences. At least that’s what restaurateur Michael Cecere is hoping for as he transitions his restaurant, Bowled, into a new concept eatery called Slō Restaurant, where slow-cooked food is the theme. The twist—it’s located inside Bob Lee’s Tires, St. Petersburg’s iconic 70-yearold auto mechanic shop.
Bowled moved into the location last November after Cecere says the restaurant struggled financially at its former location further north on Fourth Street. The new location has brought more success to the five-year-old business, in part because of the built-in crowd of the bustling auto shop’s customers and employees.
“We’re really nothing without the people in the neighborhood,” he says.
While his goals for Slō as a singular restaurant are ambitious, he also appreciates the importance of creating a nice lounge space for Bob Lee’s customers.
“I want people to have an amazing experience while they get their tires changed,” Cecere says with a twinge of humor. Ultimately though, the mild-mannered entrepreneur with baggy clothes and kind brown eyes says his goal is “to help foster a new place in the neighborhood. Really, it’s about the community.”
Cecere’s concept for Slō means that everything on the menu will have some element of slow cooking, whether it’s savory meats and seafood cooked on smokers out front, slow-simmered crockpot meals, or some of his signature sauces that take days to prepare and perfect.
While Slō will be open for breakfast and lunch during the operating hours of Bob Lee’s Tires, serving many of the same menu items it currently offers as Bowled, Cecere aims for the restaurant to be a dinner destination after Bob Lee’s closes for the day.
To entice the dinner crowd, Cecere is offering new options like Barolo Braised Beef Short Ribs, Slow Roasted Chimichurri Pork, and Filet Mignon prepared in the French sous vide style—meaning the meat is sealed airtight with seasonings in a bag, and slowly cooked at a precisely controlled temperature in a water bath. He says this method means you can cook a filet mignon for two days and still have it come out medium-rare, then take a quick torch to the outside to crisp it up a bit, and voila!
Cecere’s concept isn’t just about slow food preparation, it’s also about taking a pause and slowing down in life. One of his many ideas for the restaurant is a phone charging station, where people can leave their phones while they sit and enjoy their food—and their companions—without the seemingly endless distractions of technology.
“Slō also means slow down, actually enjoy your presence on this earth,” he says.
In contrast, just because the name is Slō, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have to wait a long time for your food.
“Everything is slow but the service,” says Cecere. Since the nature of slow cooking means things are made ahead of time and not cooked to order, wait times for food will be short.
And as for fans of Bowled, no need to worry, Slō will still serve some of Bowled’s signature dishes at dinner, including the Chicken Piccata, Spicy Thai and Mexi-Italian Lasagna, among others. Cecere also promises to offer lots of vegetarian and vegan dishes that aren’t salad. As a vegetarian, he says, he understands the need for options.
He also says he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a barbecue restaurant, which is why he offers what he describes as “global” options.
“The food coming out is going to taste like a five-star restaurant,” Cecere says.
Cecere has lots of plans for his new venture: renovating the space, bringing in more tables for indoor and outdoor dining, ambient lighting, full table service, serving wine and local craft beer on tap, live music on the weekends, and eventually opening on Sunday for brunch and a family-style dinner night, all within the space of a tire shop.
While his goal is to create a classy experience, he says the prices for his “too big” food portions are mid-range and there’s something for every budget.
“Nobody walks out hungry,” Cecere says.
Slō Restaurant is located at 1631 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg. Hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mon.- Thurs., 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat., and closed Sundays.
For more information please call 727-433-1415 or visit www.facebook.com/ bowledrestaurant.