Longtime area chef Justin Plank has been selected to be the new executive chef at Portobello at Disney Springs. Plank was chosen after traveling to Chicago earlier in the week to do a cooking demonstration for Tony Mantuano, the James Beard Award winner and chef of Spiaggia who serves as a chef advisor at Portobello. Both restaurants are owned by Chicago based Levy Restaurants.
Prior to accepting the position at Portobello, Plank was executive chef at Lake Port Square in Leesburg.
In late 2001 Plank joined Park Plaza Gardens, which changed its name during his four and a half year tenure to Chef Justin’s Park Plaza Gardens. (Park Plaza Gardens has been closed for several months due to a dispute between the owner of the restaurant and the landlord, reportedly over pest control issues.)
Portobello was called Portobello Yacht Club when it opened at Downtown Disney in 1989. It was one of the original Pleasure Island restaurants, themed as the former home of Pleasure Island's "founder" Merriweather Pleasure and his wife, Isabella, that was converted to a yacht club when they moved. (They did not leave a forwarding address.)
It has always been an Italian restaurant but only started gaining respect for its food when Mantuano came on, about eight years ago. There was talk a year ago of renaming the restaurant — Portobello by Tony Mantuano was one of the names floated. No word on whether that will now occur.
Maybe Chef Justin’s Portobello instead?