The Daily Flog

RWBlue burger

R.W. Blue bills itself as an “American Grill & Bar.” In fact, I’m guessing by the color scheme of the logo that the R and W stand for Red and White. And you’ll find such flag-waving favorites as pot roast, Philly cheesesteak and something called the Southernmost that features Key West shrimp.

But you’ll also find such things as fish & chips, gyro and a sandwich called the French Onion. So, we are the world.

When I asked my server what the restaurant wants to be known for — it’s too new to be known for much yet — she said the wings and burgers were their signature items.

Palmanos Croque

This may be the biggest croque madame I’ve ever seen.

It’s what I ordered, in my faltering French, at Palmano’s on Park Avenue. Yes, Palmano’s is an Italian name, and up until recently it had been ostensibly an Italian cafe, emphasis on the cafe/caffe.

But the new owners are French, and while they kept the name, they’ve changed the menu to be a bit more Gaulling. So of course there are the French bistro standards, including the croque monsieur and its lovely wife, madame. I usually go for the latter because it is the same as the monsieur except that it includes an egg, which is really more biologically correct than I like my sandwiches to be, but I try not to think about it.

For the uninitiated, a croque monsieur is sort of an inside out ham and cheese sandwiches, with a cheesy bechamel slathered about. It’s definitely a knife and fork sandwich, even without adding the fried egg

But like I said, I’ve never had one quite like the one I had at Palmano’s, not even in France. It was a triple decker with thick slices of French toast quality bread and thin slices of ham in between. Well, OK, the ham is more of the lunch meat quality, or viande de dejeuner, as they say in Paris. But the bechamel was thick and cheesy and made the whole thing taste like tartines on steroids. And the fried egg was gorgeous, even before I pierced the yolk and let it ooze all over the bread.

I didn’t see much else that has changed about the place. Unfortunately, it is still next door to a cigar store, whose patrons sit outside and ponder Freud, their noxious spew flowing into Palmano’s open door. “Puant!” as they say.

Palmano’s is at 333 Park Ave. S., Winter Park. It is open for breakfast and lunch daily. It does not have a website and it’s Facebook status has not been updated since 2011. The phone number is 407-647-7520.

Chicago Beard Awards

Oh, look; a New Orleans chef won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef South. There’s a surprise.

It’s becoming something of a broken record to announce the winner of the American culinary community’s biggest prize is from NOLA. Last year the south region had a tie, and both were from New Orleans.

This year’s winner is Alon Shaya of Domenica. Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico, New York, was named Outstanding Restaurant. Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group, Chicago, is the 2015 Outstanding Restaurateur. It must have been nice for him to win the award this year — for the first time in its 25 year history the foundation held the awards in Chicago instead of New York.

Michael Anthony of New York’s Gramercy Tavern was awarded the Outstanding Chef title. That’s one I can’t quibble with — I dined there again a couple of months ago and found it to be as wonderful as ever. (And I was happy to lend my vote to Anthony for the overall award.)

New York City’s Batard was crowned Best New Restaurant.

For a full list of winners, visit the James Beard website.

GusStamatinConstantine “Gus” Stamatin, whose restaurant was a West Orlando staple for many years, died on May 1, 2015. He was 84.

Gus’ Villa Rosa, which opened in 1980, featured a Mediterranean menu with Italian fare that also leaned a bit toward the Greek shores to reflect its owner’s heritage. The restaurant was on Old Winter Garden Road in Orlando and was a favorite among locals until it closed in 1993.

In my November 8, 1992, review of Gus’ Villa Rosa, I wrote:

The restaurant is stuck in a time warp; it does not appear to have changed since the 1960s. The main dining rooms most prominent feature is darkness. This is not the romantic mood of dimmed lights; this is blackness interrupted only here and there by bare light bulbs in overhead lamps and an occasional beer sign. It’s enough light to see the funky Italian-scape murals on the long wall, but not enough to read the menu. (Across the room

 

I noticed a man reading by Bic-light its the first time I have ever envied a smoker.)

What isn’t knotty pine is knotty plywood or plastic brick paneling. Chairs don’t match, and the walls sport laminated posters. A large aquarium with tiny fish separates the bar from a smaller (and better lighted) dining room. Tables are covered with linens and protected by a clear acrylic cover.

 

Does any of this detract from the dining experience? Are you kidding? All of this makes the dining experience. Without this eclectic atmosphere Villa Rosa would be just another Italian restaurant. With the crazy decor, its a hoot.

 

Gus Stamatin is the man whose name is on the restaurant (literally, in big red letters on the white block building). He and his wife Marlene have operated Villa Rosa for 12 years. They may not be big on decorating, but they sure know how to put some fine food together.

Stamatin was also one of the founding members of the Central Florida Chefs Association. His wife, Marlene, who ran the restaurant along with him, died in 2009. He is survived by the couple’s four children and four siblings plus numerous grand children and great grandchildren.

Mothers Day Pasta

Mother’s Day is one day of the year you should insist mom stay out of the kitchen. No matter how much she resists, it’s a day to let her know she’s raised you right.

If you prefer a day at home instead of queuing up at a restaurant, we’re sharing this epicurean combo that anyone can toss together in less than 30 minutes, then serve at room temperature. It’s super easy to prep and clean up, with fresh tomatoes, a little wine, lots of garlic and the salty finish of capers and Kalamata olives. Serve with a little green salad and crusty bread for a meal worthy of mama.