Restaurants are in the food and beverage business but also in the business of change. Menus change, chefs change, even names change. 

For Pelagia, located lobby level at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, the latest change has been a real game-changer.

What first gained fame as an acclaimed Italian restaurant, opening simultaneously with the AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel in 2004, has evolved into a versatile events venue featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen, pops of color and stylish light fixtures.

The mid-size space is where private wedding parties, invitation-only cocktail soirees and corporate luncheons are now held instead of romantic date night dinners. With its open floor plan and dynamic decor, Pelagia offers a vibrant, vivacious alternative to more traditional, fully enclosed ballrooms and meeting spaces.

Food is still freshly prepared on-site but not for the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner service previously available to hotel guests and the public. Instead, Pelagia Executive Chef Brett Gardiner is now spicing up the offerings by setting up specialty food stations, creating customized menus or serving group meals family-style. By crafting food to fit a specific event, Pelagia’s culinary team creates an even more exciting and inviting experience.

That flexibility can provide affordability to clients who want a meal tailor-made to their tastes but don’t want to be bound by the limited choices and quantities mandated by many banquet menus.

Think of the former restaurant as a freshly imagined event site that is free to be whatever it wants, or needs, to be for up to 150 people.

Open calendar dates create opportunities for Pelagia, and its adjoining patio, to be transformed for festivities that welcome the public along with guests overnighting at the luxury hotel. Those include monthly salsa dance events with DJs, bring-your-own-mat yoga classes and pop up urban markets featuring vendors selling locally made crafts, specialty foods, jewelry and more along with live music.

“We want to position Pelagia as a place you can come to and do different parties or receptions as well as one of those places to meet, greet and eat,” said Talib McDowell, assistant general manager of the hotel and restaurant located at International Plaza.

Pelagia’s transition is also prompting dramatic changes at Gabriella’s, which remains a full service restaurant. Located in the lobby, overlooking the luxury hotel’s centerpiece courtyard, Gabriella’s originated as a more casual dining option to Pelagia that also doubled as a lounge where guests could enjoy a light bite or a nightcap. Lots of new offerings are in the works for that food and beverage outlet with design changes to follow in the months ahead.

A craft coffee experience featuring locally roasted coffees by Brown Bear will be introduced, along with a more sophisticated mixology program focusing on barrel-aged cocktails. Barrels made with coffee-, wine-, smoked- and oak-aged wood will be used to mature bourbons in-house.

“We may be the first in Tampa to barrel-age to this capacity,” McDowell added. “We will also have cigars hand rolled on-site and a menu of tapas-style food.”

For information about Pelagia and booking events at the hotel, contact Maria E. Campos, senior catering sales executive and a certified wedding consultant, at or 813-313-3222.

Want to find other fun events coming to Tampa Bay? Simply register at 813area or 727area. It's easy and free!

Photos provided by Jorge Chávez/Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza.