We are excited for The Joinery’s grand opening date this fall and as we continue to wait for the big day, here is the most recent update.

Jon and Sarah Bucklew are excited to announce, Ava, the pizza and Italian fare restaurant coming to The Joinery.

Ava is owned by restaurateur Michael Stewart, owner of several restaurants including 717 South in Tampa, and three Ava locations. The main Ava is located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, another one inside Armature Works, and the newest one (opening in a few weeks) in Charlotte, NC.

I would be lying if I said that the story behind Ava and it’s owner is something to be ignored. From all-star chef’s to other successful restaurants with baseball legend Joe Maddon, there is no doubt about it, Michael Stewart and his powerhouse team know exactly what they are doing and now they are grateful for an opportunity to share all of the delicious fun with Lakeland at The Joinery.

Michael Stewart, Josh Hernandez, Joe Maddon

Acunto oven at The Joinery

While Stewart was working to open the first Ava location in Tampa, he took a trip down to Los Angeles where he followed a recommendation to dine at Bestia. Bestia is a multi-award winning restaurant owned by recognized chef, Ori Menashe.

Stewart arrives at Bestia and the first thing he notices is the same Acunto pizza oven he just bought for his new restaurant, Ava.

“I walked up to the pizza guy [Josh Hernandez] at Bestia and said ‘hey I like that oven. I just bought one’ and the pizza guy asks ‘What do you know about the Acunto?'” says Stewart. 


Stewart introduces himself to Chef Josh Hernandez, soon finds out that Josh is from Sarasota, and that they both graduated from Florida State University. Not long after, Hernandez is visiting Tampa and sets up a meeting with Stewart.

Hernandez brings a jar with a starter (a mixture to make artisan dough) to the meeting and says to Stewart, “this is the starter Ori Menashe allowed me to bring.” Josh Hernandez ends up leaving Bestia as a Sous Chef to become Ava’s Executive Chef – and the rest is history.

This starter has been at the heart of all of the Ava restaurants as well as Maddon’s Post with celebrity Chef Tony Mantuano. 

Ava Inspirato Italiano Dough

The Ava at Armature Works is not far from the Lakeland Ava at The Joinery. Stewart says that Executive Chef Hernandez will be training The Joinery Ava staff out of the big Ava location on South Howard Avenue and Armature Works. The staff will have the opportunity to work at all three locations. Executive Chef Josh Hernandez also plans to spend some time working at Ava inside The Joinery.

The Joinery, located at 640 E. Main, will be a 12,000-square-foot space joining food and drink vendors under one roof.