City Tropics Bistro was a successful restaurant for 15 years, said owner Djon Pepaj, but he’s ready for a change.
The restaurant and bar on Fifth Avenue in Indialantic closed in November. Pepaj plans to reopen this spring as a gourmet market, restaurant and retail hub.
Pepaj owns the City Tropics plaza, which is also home to a beauty salon and other a few other businesses, which will relocate in the next few months. When renovations are finished, the entire 20,000-square-foot space will offer customers everything from lunch with friends to wine and cheese to natural pet food.
“It’s going to be great for the whole town,” Pepaj said.
Pepaj, who owns three other restaurants in the area — Copperhead Tavern in Indialantic and Djon’s Steak & Lobster House and Sand on the Beach in Melbourne Beach — said he was ready to add something new to his portfolio.
“I have plenty of restaurants,” he said. “I really don’t need another one. … This is a no-brainer. This is much better for the town.”
He’s taking inspiration from Eataly, an Italian marketplace with locations in Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and around the world.
He became familiar with the Eataly concept while visiting his daughter, Alexis Strober, who lives in New York.
“Every time I’m in New York, I’m going to Eataly,” he said.
Connie Harvey of Cocoa, who frequently travels to Chicago and New York, describes Eataly as a combination gourmet market, restaurant and high-end food court. Sit down in the cheese area to enjoy some of the cheeses available to take home. Do the same in the bakery. Or get the type of food you want and meet up with friends at a central location. On the Eataly website, it says: “We cook what we sell, and we sell what we cook.”
That’s the atmosphere Pepaj is hoping to promote. The new store will offer baked goods, vegetables, seafood, meats, cold cuts, cheeses, wine and natural pet foods.
“You can sit around the seafood section and have fresh oysters and champagne,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a rooftop bar.”
Pepaj said he is working with a design company that specializes in gourmet groceries. He’s targeted late April for opening the new place.
“I don’t consider this closing the doors,” he said, “just see you later. People are going to love it.”