St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport may not offer flights to Italy just yet, but its passengers can now enjoy some of the area’s favorite Italian fare before jetting off to their destinations.
At a ribbon cutting Tuesday morning, PIE officially welcomed Mazarro’s Italian Market to its growing roster of restaurant and retail offerings, adding a beloved, well-known and delicious local presence to the airport landscape.
“As we see airport concessions across the nation start to close, at least temporarily, because of the pandemic, we’re very fortunate to be moving forward with the opening of Mazarro’s,” said airport director Tom Jewsbury. “We’re thrilled to welcome them to the PIE family.”
Although PIE, like airports across the country, has seen its passenger counts decline because of Covid-19, Jewsbury said things are moving in the right direction. While most airports are down by about 74 percent, he said, PIE is only down by 40 percent. It’s also been able to retain 53 out of 56 of its nonstop destinations.
“We’re actually doing quite well,” Jewsbury said.
The addition of Mazarro’s, which is housed in the newly renovated and expanded area outside gates 7 through 11, marks the latest in a series of multi-million dollar improvements to the airport over the past year. An in-line checked baggage system was installed in late 2019, allowing TSA to process 1,300 bags per hour compared to the 250 it was capable of handling before. There was also a complete overhaul of the airport’s Customs and Border Protection Facility.
But what passengers are likely to be most excited about are the expanded dining options, which came about after the Pinellas County Commission approved a contract with SSP-Hudson PIE Concessions LLC in May 2019. Aside from Mazarro’s, a Dunkin’ is now open in the pre-security concourse and the airport plans to open The District Pub upstairs in the area as well. A 3 Daughters Brewing outpost is also under construction outside gates 2 through 6.
Mazarro’s owner Kurt Cuccaro said the market was just about ready to open in March when Covid shut things down for about four months, he said. That may have been a blessing in disguise.
“It’s gone a lot smoother than I anticipated,” Cuccaro said of the process. “It’s kind of good that it’s a little bit quieter with travel, so we can fine tune everything rather than being right in the middle of the busy season.”
Due to traffic at the airport being down, the market is starting off with a limited menu of hot and cold sandwiches along with flatbreads, cookies and grab-and-go salads. Cuccaro said he plans to expand the selections by about 50 percent once travel picks back up again. He’s hopeful that having a presence at the airport will be a treat for both locals and visitors.
“People that know us will be able to get a little bit of what we do here at the airport,” he said. “Hopefully new people will drop in here and feel like they’d like to visit the market and get more of the experience.”