When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When an established brand with a claim on your trademark rights comes to town, you shell out boatloads of cash to fight them in court, or you change your concept and move on.

That’s what Chef Tom Gray and his wife and business partner, Sarah Marie Johnston, are doing with Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails now that a Canadian chain of the same name is entering the market.

Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston. Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

But rather than fuss and moan over the loss of the popular St. John’s Town Center destination’s brand equity, Gray is seizing the opportunity to change course and switch things up. “I’m a glass half full kind of guy,” Gray mused, “and when it came down to it, I realized this was an exciting opportunity to introduce something new to Jacksonville and the Town Center.” 

That something new is something Chef Gray is quite familiar with–pasta.

As it happens, Chef Gray started out in pasta.  At the tender age of 17, he fell in love with the simple yet satisfying process of making fresh pasta on the job of his first kitchen gig. “It is fascinating how you can take two or three simple ingredients like flour, water and eggs and transform them into a dish that is comforting and crave-able,” he says.

Prati Italia™ will occupy the former Moxie space but will feature Roman-style pizza and handmade pasta in place of contemporary regional cuisine. Although the menu will change significantly, we can still hope to expect the same welcoming hospitality centered around socializing that Moxie came to be known for in the years since it opened in 2013.

That being said, the decor is scheduled to change inside and out to better reflect the new direction and the new design, led by Johnston will take steps to enhance the customer experience even further. Moxie will continue operating as normal through the end of the year, culminating with their New Year’s Eve Celebration. After that, they’ll shut down briefly to remodel with the intent to re-open as soon as mid-January 2020. In other words, get thee to Moxie post-haste to get the most out of this local gem before it’s gone for good. And don’t sleep on the fish dip!

Bold Bites is a collaboration between Void Magazine and Edible Northeast Florida. If it’s BOLD and ridiculously tasty in the 904, we’ll try it. Follow @boldbites on Instagram.