Visual and culinary arts came together during a live painting demonstration at Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg recently. The event was the first in a series designed to spotlight local artists. The pairing of food and arts is quite apt at Rococo, named after the art movement also known as "Late Baroque," developed in the early 18th century in Paris and encompassing painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, literature, music and theater.
"We want to do these events at least every other month because Rococo is all about art," said Dave Madera, development director at Caledon Concepts, which owns Rococo and is also the parent company of the Ceviche restaurants. "We love the local artists, and think that it is important to have their art in our restaurant and help support the community."
Among the two dozen or so guests were Peggy Naruns, owner of Northstar Realty in St. Petersburg; Rita Bateman, owner of Your Design Envy; Alyce Caron, a host with Home Shopping Network; and Heather Joie, a business consultant attending on behalf of LocalShops1. In addition to Dave Madera, the restaurant was represented by Lee Karlins, president of Caledon Concepts; Kevin Quinn, Rococo's general manager; and Audrey Grounds, Rococo's private events director.
Guests enjoyed appetizers and brightly colored specialty cocktails, to complement the purples and reds in the painting being created. (One of our favorite cocktails was the Sky Blue Mule, a variation of their Muddled Mule: grape-infused vodka with lime and ginger beer, and topped with dried blueberries.)
About the restaurant
Rococo Steak opened in fall 2013, after a $3 million-plus renovation of the historic 1920s YWCA building, at 655 Second Ave. S in St. Petersburg. Its parent company, Caledon Concepts, is a boutique restaurant group that also owns Ceviche restaurants in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando.
Rococo isn't the traditional steak-and-potatoes steakhouse, and the restaurant takes pride in its modern approach. "Strict traditionalists may question — or even curse — Rococo Steak for our reimagined interpretation of the American steakhouse," they write on their website. "To them we say, Vive La (Steak) Revolution! Born out of an undying passion for creative cuisine with avant-garde sensibility and artistic flair, Rococo Steak embraces a lighter, livelier and decidedly more decadent fine dining experience."
The steakhouse brought "something new to a paradigm that can sometimes feel a bit dated," Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley wrote in her review a few weeks after the restaurant opened.
"Despite the huge building, the main dining room is intimate (there's a covered porch out front and private dining upstairs), with touches like a slightly salacious ceiling mural that reinforce that this is an independent restaurant in a historic space, an experience categorically different from being in an I-could-be-anywhere Ruth's Chris," Reiley writes. "It is dark (ah, the flashlight app), with a soundtrack that draws deeply from feel-good 1980s pop."
On the menu you'll find both corn-fed and grass fed filet mignon, NY strip and grass-fed ribeye, plus a selection of appetizers, soups, salads and sides that include seared ahi tuna, charred cuttlefish, lobster cognac bisque, truffle fries, and red quinoa with brown rice.
The restaurant also features a huge selection of wines; in fact, the second largest private collection in the area (Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa comes in first). Rococo's wine cellar includes vintage wines that sell for more than $800.
About the artist
Palm Harbor resident Laura James says her work focuses on "change and diversity." Her colorful works represent life experience and a constant state of change, she says. "
"The entire piece creates a feeling of motion while actually being motionless," she explains. "Through the use of certain mediums the colors can be integrated together and layered without becoming muted. Though the colors in my work overlap and blend they do not lose their individual character. I believe it takes variety to achieve intense power and beauty."
James' work can be seen throughout St. Petersburg, including 400 Beach, Northstar Realty and Studio @ 620.
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