Lauren Macellaro , Executive Chef & Cook #1
Lauren’s family unintentionally forced her to become a chef. New York Italians from can be very persuasive! Growing up in Queens (and then the Garden State) it was all the gardening, and the sauces, and the breads, and the basement wine making that inspired her. Surrounded by incredibly delicious things and a culture immersed in food, there was almost no choice. She went to culinary school at Institute of Culinary Education in New York city, and worked first real job cooking vegetables and grains with Indian spice for Floyd Cardoz & Danny Meyer, at Tabla. Travels took her to Philadelphia, and then Asheville, NC, where she was Number 2 for 5 years to the extremely talented, Brian Canipelli, the chef and owner of Cucina 24. This is also where she met a good group of future employees.
Here in Florida she was a sous chef at Locale Market, and then spent over a year at Rooster & the Till. Lauren’s spirit animal is a chihuahua named, Lil Mama, the only gin drink she can tolerate is a Sharpie Mustache and her last meal would be bread, butter, & a Txakolina.
Jessika Palombo , aka JP: Beverages & Hospitality & Bartender
Jessika is originally from Nepean, Canada and Ormond Beach, FL. She too had a strong presence of food early on, having a large garden in Canada and a family who loved cooking and gathering for meals. She found her love for this industry the minute she started working in restaurants, as a host. Jessika traveled her way through the business: prep cook, server, bartender, to manager. In Asheville, NC, she was the head bartender at Wicked Weed Brewery, where she learned from her bar manager “Ray Ray” that working together as a team will take you much further than attempting anything alone. More recently, she has been a part of the Stillwaters Tavern/ Bella Brava family here in St. Petersburg. Although she is creating delicious libations in the front of house now, it doesn’t mean you won’t find her sneaking in the kitchen. JP loves snacks, her two cats, Jimmie Choo & Charlotte O, almost as much as her rescue pups, Kaia Boo & Tanner!
Margo Paraska : Gardens & Foods
Margo worked at Cucina 24 as well. She was there first, doing bread, desserts, lunch, pizza. Margo is magical; she puts things in the ground and they grow and turn into something delicious. She started the composting program at Cucina and turns her yards into “yardens,” everywhere she lives. She worked together with Lauren, for years in Asheville, before she moved to Vermont. We are excited about being reunited in Florida and seeing what kind of things she can grow in this climate. She is always looking for new ways to make things better and learn. Margo has brought down worm compost and seeds she saved for her project here! She does lots of yoga, has a super-wife named Susan, feline sidekick named Rugby, a master-of-all-laps-cat named Ana, and hates plastic bags.
Kevin Lane , Proprietor
People think that St. Petersburg started getting cool only a few years ago; in fact, the trend started in 1977 when Kevin emerged from the womb at Bayfront Hospital. Far from his early dreams of being a game show host, Kevin ended up being a social entrepreneur in his home city, giving rise to some of the most recognizably significant “hometown” projects. First and foremost, he was a co-founder of Freefall Theatre, which has become a regionally recognized professional arts institution. Next, his involvement with Green Bench Brewing Company proved to him that just the right brew can develop an entire neighborhood and really put a city on the map. And now, the Reading Room speaks to his own passions of food sustainability and taste bud satisfaction. Kevin finds his inspiration in his road trips, having driven all around this continent identifying what makes a great city great. After graduating from Shorecrest Prep School, Kevin studied entrepreneurship and marketing at Emory University in Atlanta, and finally earned his MBA in finance from University of Tampa. Kevin gives thanks to his family for their decades of love and support.