May 24, 2012 by Sarah M
A well-liked Saint Paul restaurant could soon relocate to Northeast Minneapolis if an online fundraiser goes well. Caribe Caribbean Bistro opened on Raymond Avenue in Saint Paul to positive reviews, but business suffered as Light Rail construction diverted traffic away from the area. It closed on April 15, but owners Tony and Heidi Panelli have designs on the former Amici Bistro space at 2851 Johnson St. NE. To fund the relocation, the Panellis have turned to online funding tool Kickstarter.
If they’re able to raise the funds, Caribe could be open in the space as soon as August. Tony Panelli worked at nearby Pop before opening Caribe, and he started looking for new locations for the restaurant when business began to slow. Amici was for sale before it closed, and the Panellis inquired about purchasing it. But with Caribe’s payroll coming out of their savings during the slump, no bank would lend them the money. Caribe closed, as did Amici. One deal for the Johnson Street space fell through, then another. The building’s owner agreed to hold the space for the Panellis for 30 days while they raised money.
“He told us he thought someone was looking out for us,” Heidi Panelli said.
The Panellis have raised over 20 percent of their $50,000 goal so far, with 20 days to go on their Kickstarter drive. The have started the restaurant licensure process and planning their renovations for the space. “It looks like an upscale Italian restaurant,” said Heidi Panelli. “We want it to look like a weathered beach house.”
The Amici space is roughly twice the size of Caribe’s original location. Heidi Panelli estimates that it could hold up to 85 diners, and the larger kitchen area will allow Tony Panelli to expand the menu. He’s very excited about the possibility of bringing more foods from his native Puerto Rico to local diners.
“He always wanted to bring the food he grew up on to Minnesota,” said Heidi Panelli.
Those who are interested in learning more about the Panellis’ plans for Caribe or sampling some of their food will have a pair of opportunities in June. They will have a booth at June 2’s Johnstock event to meet their future neighbors. On June 7, they will be preparing food in the Chowgirls Parlor, 1222 2nd St. NE, as part of the Northrup King Building’s monthly First Thursday event.