For many Marco residents, the year 2020 cannot come to an end soon enough. The COVID-19 virus and the impact financially on local businesses has been tragic to say the least, especially in the food and beverage area.
For Tony Smith and his family, this year has been especially hard – not only because of the virus, which forced the longtime concessionaire at Collier County’s Tigertail Beach Park to close that operation for several months due to the state’s mandated closure – but also due to failed negotiations on a new acceptable contract with county staff. Because of unacceptable financial terms, Smith and his family were forced to walk away from a business he had built over the last 30 years.
However, the Smith family would not let something like a worldwide pandemic or an unsuccessful negotiation with government bureaucrats stand in the way of their family’s quest to continue a successful independent family business venture. So, when the one door closed over at Tigertail Beach, another opened in the Shops of Olde Marco, allowing the Smith family to begin another great adventure in their lives. They were able to take over what was formerly Petit Soleil, an exceedingly popular spot for breakfast and lunch fans on Marco Island.
The venue couldn’t have been better suited for what the Smith family has in mind. Many Marco residents and visitors who have fallen in love with our island, as well as with the Bohemian atmosphere down in Key West, will love what the Smiths have planned. The quaint atmosphere found in Olde Marco, with its small shops and charming artists who occupy galleries nestled in the area adjacent to the historic Olde Marco Inn, will quickly make the new venue a must on everyone’s list of favorite places.
Knowing that food will be an important part of what makes this a special place, the Smiths were very selective when they chose someone who could bring something special to the table. “This is going to be a very Florida style of menu. We’ll have a number of fun offerings such as alligator, Florida Boar and some other favorite local Florida items,” said Smith, as he introduced Patrick McGrath, the newly appointed Executive Chef for the Smith House in Olde Marco Village.
McGrath is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the United States, located overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park, NY, but he now has come home to Marco Island. He originally moved to Marco Island when he was seven years old and went to Marco schools, but credits his Italian grandmother and his mother for his love of the kitchen. “My grandmother’s name was Beraduce, hence the Italian connection, and my mom also was Italian,” said McGrath with a chuckle.
After graduation from CIA, he moved to Boston where he worked for the flagship restaurant Legal Seafood at their Legal Harborside, located on the Boston waterfront. This was where he was introduced to all levels of the restaurant business.
However, McGrath’s heart was in Southwest Florida, and the opportunity that the Smith family was offering was not one he wanted to miss. He quickly jumped in with both feet, promising that all breads and pastries would be baked on site and that they would grow some of their own herbs and spices. In addition, McGrath said they would be bringing in fresh seafood from gulf fishermen in the Marco/Naples area, so as to not disappoint their local clientele.
Smith’s wife Martina and daughter Michaela will manage the restaurant, as they did when they operated the eatery at the Tigertail concession. Also involved will be their other daughter Aubrey and their son Jack.
Tony Smith grins when he thinks about where he has come over these last 30 plus years here on Marco, and loves to brag about how proud he is of his family. “Martina and our three kids are my greatest accomplishment in life, they truly are,” says the proud entrepreneur, who thanks his family for his great blessings. Martina and Tony will celebrate their 29th Wedding Anniversary on November 30. The Smith House will launch their next adventure very soon, first by opening with breakfast and lunch and, by the end of the year, with dinners being served in the quaint shops located at 200 Palm Avenue in Olde Marco.