Flamenco dancers star of dinner at Columbia

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The lights go down, the music turns up, and three Flamenco dancers begin their performance on a stage at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City.

The dance is based on musical traditions of Spain, but for Andrea Gonzmart Williams, it's the sound of her childhood.

"I tried the dance when I was 10, but my career didn't last long," laughed Andrea.

She's a member of the fifth generation of the family that started the restaurant -- known locally as the Gonzmarts, but the name was actually created by her great-grandparents. Combining their names, Gonzalez and Martinez, the Gonzmart legacy was born.

The restaurant opened in 1905, which always reminds me of one of my favorite items on the menu, the 1905 Salad, which I saw prepared tableside again.

I've seen it done dozens of times by the restaurant's skilled waiters, but I fall in love again each time, savoring the dressing, olives, and fresh greens. 


Many of the waiters and other staff members have worked here for decades. Uncle George, as Andrea calls him, is not her actual uncle, but he's worked at the Columbia for 56 years.

Andrea says when she walks through the restaurant, she ends up kissing dozens of people.

"I know so many of them," she said. "It's like a family."

It's a family that created its very name, along with one of the most famous restaurants in Tampa.