Meson exterior

There is a reason there’s usually a long line at the Meson Sandwiches at Florida Mall and in Kissimmee. I mean besides the fact that it serves some pretty tasty sandwiches.

It’s because a lot of the people waiting to order already know Meson. Even though it is relatively new to that area and there are only two locations here — with three more coming soon — many know the brand from Puerto Rico, where there are 37 locations around the island.

 It was founded by Felipe Pérez Sr. and is now run by his son, whose name is Felipe Pérez Grajales. He spoke with me recently from his office in Mayaguez, P.R.

Pérez Grajales told me that the Meson Sandwiches stores that the company is opening in Central Florida — the first ones on the mainland — are exactly the same as the ones in Puerto Rico. That includes the menu, which has quite an extensive array of sandwiches, some with rather curious names.

Meson all pro

Take the All Pro, which was one of the sandwiches I sampled when I was invited to visit the newest restaurant in Kissimmee. It features Virginia ham and pastrami with sautéed onions and melted swiss cheese on criollo bread, pressed in the fashion of other Caribbean style sandwiches.

It was a delicious sandwich, the best of what I sampled. There was something quite familiar about it to me, even though I’ve not been to a Meson in Puerto Rico.

RTS Confab

Restaurant Talent Scouts, a partnership dedicated to finding qualified employment candidates for the restaurant and hospitality industry, recently celebrated its first anniversary. It was a great initial year.

Founded in 2015 by chef Rocky Tarantello, recruiting professional Lenka Brady, and critic Scott Joseph, Restaurant Talent Scouts provides an affordable solution to businesses faced with filling key positions. Rather than the industry standard percentage, RTS offers its services for a set fee, and further saves its clients time and money by doing the recruiting, vetting and initial interviews of applicants.

“As someone who has been involved with restaurants as an executive chef and manager, I know how frustrating it can be to find qualified candidates to staff a successful business,” said Tarantello. “It can take hours of sifting through resumes and sitting through interviews.”

Over the past 12 months, Restaurant Talent Scouts has placed Executive Chefs, Sous Chefs, Kitchen Managers, General Managers, and Assistant General Managers,. Clients have included Buca di Beppo, Slate, London Lennie’s, Saltaire, Cask & Larder, Tony Roma’s and Wicked Tuna.

And although Restaurant Talent Scouts is based in Orlando, it has recruited for positions in San Francisco, New York City, Salt Lake City, Myrtle Beach, Minneapolis, and West Palm Beach, as well as throughout Central Florida.

The company expects continued growth throughout the rest of 2016 and into 2017. An industrywide shortage of qualified and experienced restaurant professionals makes filling open positions an even greater challenge. Restaurant Talent Scouts is uniquely positioned to easing that task.

If you are a restaurant owner, find more information at the Restaurant Talent Scouts website.

And if you’re a chef or manager with the experience to move to the next level in your career, contact RTS to be considered for one of the currently open positions in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Birmingham, Myrtle Beach or Orlando.

RTS Smile

Spice Modern Steakhouse will dedicate the proceeds from sales on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, to the OneOrlando Fund, which benefits the victims and families of the Pulse massacre.

Sister restaurant Verde Mexican Cantina will do the same for sales on Wednesday, June 22. 

Spice Modern is at 407 E. Central Blvd., Orlando. Verde is at 8 N. Summerlin Ave., Orlando. More details at

Itar interior

Although the name sounds like it might be the name of a far off land, Itar is actually a portmanteaux of Italy and Argentina, the two cuisines represented on the menu. It also sounds a little like Ishtar, the infamous movie that starred Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. But that was a bomb; Itar is a hit.

I first told you that Itar Bistro Market was being planned for a space in Metro West’s Veranda Park almost exactly two years ago, in July of 12014. But it didn’t actually open until August of last year.

Itar is the project of Mariana Moya, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who serves as the chef. Quite ably, I might add. Everything that my companion and I sampled on a recent visit was top notch, both in quality of ingredients and their preparation.


Nova exterior

Nova Restaurant is hosting a fundraiser for the OneOrlando Fund, which was created to aid the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and their families.

Nova, at 1409 N. Orange Ave., in Orlando's Lake Ivanhoe district, will host an event Monday, June 20 from 8 to 11 p.m. with 100% of proceeds going to the fund. Instead of offering the regular menu, the restaurant will have specialty drinks and appetizers for one admission price of $25. Breakthru Beverage Group and Lombardi's Seafood are supplying food and drinks for the cause.