Scott PizzoFIRST ON SJO -- The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, has announced that local chef Scott Pizzo will take over as chef de cuisine at the critically acclaimed Highball & Harvest. Pizzo replaces Nathan Hardin who left the company to join a restaurant goup in the Tampa area.

Pizzo began his culinary career just one flight up, at Norman's, after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando. After rising to the rank of chef tournant, he joined Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi on Sand Lake Road.

James Petrakis then brought him on as executive sous chef at the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, and eventually he was named chef de cuisine for the Petrakises' Cask & Larder.

According to Grande Lakes' chef Peter Zampaglione, Pizzo will join the resort on Wednesday and will work with the H&H team to "talke the Southern cuisine of HIghabll & Harvest to a whole new level." Considering the level the food there has been, I can't wait to see where it goes. 

Nova interior walls

When Nova opened almost a year ago in a redesigned space on North Orange Avenue at Virginia Drive, the crossroads that give it its name, I found the decor delightfully adult and sophisticated but the food was disappointing. I also said at the time that I wasn’t ready to give up on Nova because we need more restaurants like this in the downtown sector.

I’m glad I didn’t give up because I returned to Nova recently and found that the menu — a different one from the opening — is now more appropriately varied and with more interesting offerings. Even better: it’s being cooked properly.

I’m pleased now to recommend Nova.

Luigino’s, the Heathrow Italian restaurant, is closing. In a letter sent to regulars, the restaurants said it would be selling its inventory of wines “and other valued items” on Monday, January 16. A man who answered at the restaurant and identified himself as a manager said that “it was just time to close.” He abruptly ended the call after he told someone who he was talking to and they told him not to speak to me. (My most recent review of Luigino’s wasn’t exactly stellar.)

Before hanging up, the young man said that the owners would continue with an ongoing catering business that specializes in Indian cuisine. So there you go.

Luigino’s was originally opened by Jeno Paulucci, who made his fortune with Jeno’s frozen pizzas. Paulucci’s first restaurant in the space at 120 International Parkway was called Pasta Lovers and was a perceived attempt to out Olive Garden Olive Garden. Didn’t work. It later transitioned, in 1997, to Luigino's Pasta Lovers and Steakhouse (you could order steak on the pasta side of the restaurant but you couldn't order pasta on the steakhouse side). The Pasta Lovers and Steakhouse names were eventually dropped.

There is nothing about the closing on the restaurant’s website, and the last entry on Luigino’s Heathrow’s Facebook page was in October. But if you'd like one last visit, you may want to get there before the 16th.

Aimee RiveraAimee Rivera has assumed the title of chef de cuisine at Disney’s estimable Victoria & Albert’s restaurant. She takes over for Scott Hunnel, who is now the executive chef for Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is home to the fine dining restaurant.

Hunnel still officially oversees the restaurant. “I have one leg in Victoria & Albert’s and one leg in the Grand,” he said. The new structure for V&A, he said, essentially moved other personnel up a notch.

Rivera, who has been with the restaurant for 14 years, was previously chef. Sous chefs Tom Hill and Matt Sower now hold that title. Hill has been with the restaurant for 21 years. It’s a testament to Hunnel and the way he operates his kitchen that so many staff members have been with him for so long. Chefs, as a group, are fairly peripatetic.


Note: This article has been updated to clarify Henry Salgado's role at Luke's in Maitland.

Henry and Michele Salgado have sold their critically acclaimed New Smyrna Beach restaurant, Spanish River Grill. The restaurant, which opened in December of 1999, featured chef Henry Salgado’s modern approach to Latin cuisine.

The Salgados had also owned Txokos Basque Kitchen at East End Market but sold it last year. That restaurant has since closed.

The new owner of Spanish River Grill is Henry Rodriguez. Attempts to reach Rodriquez were not successful. The restaurant’s website still features the Salgados as the owners, so it isn’t clear what, if any, changes Rodriguez might make.

Michele Salgado says the couple are in the process of purchasing property off of New Smyrna Beach’s Flagler Avenue to open a new concept this spring. In the meantime, Henry, pictured at left, is working at Luke’s Kitchen and Bar in Maitland, which debuts today.