Ottos ext

I have no idea why it’s called Otto’s High Dive, but the new “neighborhood rum bar” with a Cuban food menu is eminently likable.

There are no clues as to who Otto is or was at the restaurant or on its website (which has precious little information besides its location and hours of operation). And the decor is not swimming pool-themed; one presumes the name is suggesting a tonier type of divey bar, oxymoronic as that might be.

And there is nothing divey about the place – especially the prices, but we’ll come back to that.


Shake It Up

This week I’m showcasing the restaurants that are part of the silent auction for Shake It Up!, the gala for Orlando Shakes in partnership with UCF.

Today, an Italian dining package featuring two of our favorites: Stefano’s Trattoria and Tornatore’s Ristorante. The package comes with two $100 gift cards to Tornatore’s and one $100 gift card to Stefano’s.

The items are currently for bid online here. The successful bidder will be names at the event on Sunday, Feb. 26.

Tickets to the gala are also still available and can be purchased here. The evening will feature a reception with food stations, including Tap Room at Dubsdread, Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe, Chicken Guy!, Buca di Beppo, Capa at the Four Seasons Orlando, Rosen Hotels, Arthur’s Catering, Kelly’s Ice Cream and UCF Catering with Aramark. There will also be live entertainment during the reception and a performance in the theater featuring songs from productions from the Shakes’ past 34 seasons.

Shake It Up! is 5 p.m. Sunday at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park.


TAstecfl logo

Taste! Central Florida, the usually annual fundraiser to ironically fight childhood hunger, will return Aug. 18 to the Orlando World Center Marriott from 7 to 11 p.m. Vendor and sponsor packages are on sale now and individual tickets will go on sale this spring. Proceeds go to Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to aid in their efforts to stanch food insecurity, which effects one in five children in the area.

The event, which features a collection of 40 or so local restaurants in a walkabout setup, has been absent for the past three years. That was because of Covid-19, of course, and it was not deemed safe to have thousands of people gather together, even in a massive venue like the OWCM’s grand ballroom. Also, Covid tends to affect the senses, so it didn’t make sense to have an event called Taste! Central Florida if people couldn’t Taste! anything. (It also affects the ability to smell, but so far no one has come up with an event called Smell! Central Florida. Although that would make a good fundraiser because childhood hunger stinks.)


Normans extPhoto via Norman's Facebook page

Norman’s is finally open in its new home at 7924 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. The return of Norman Van Aken’s restaurant has been bated-breathily anticipated ever since it departed its original Central Florida home at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando in 2019. The Ritz-Carlton space is now occupied by Knife & Spoon.

The restaurant had originally planned a 2020 reopening, but that pesky little pandemic slowed things down. Then there were the usual construction delays and dilemmas that all restaurants face. But it’s finally here and ready for you.

Van Aken and his partner Thomas D. Wood Jr. have generously donated a gift certificate to Norman’s for this Sunday’s Orlando Shakes Gala. The silent auction is open online now and you can bid on it and other restaurant prizes here. Successful bidders will be announced at the event.


Enzo sign

This Sunday, Feb. 26, is the annual Orlando Shakes Gala, benefitting Central Florida’s premier professional theater organization. Of course, a gala usually features an auction and Shakes’ will have one, too. In fact, the silent auction items are already online and taking bids. You can see them here.

And among the items up for bid are some of the area’s best restaurants. Because I have a close connection with Orlando Shakes in Partnership with UCF, I’ve been helping the gala committee put together the Scott Joseph Collection of restaurants for the auction, and all this week I’ll be highlighting some of the selections.

Today we begin with: Me.

Well, me and Enzo’s on the Lake. As you’ve read here, the iconic Longwood restaurant was recently sold. Any time a popular restaurant undergoes a major change like that, I need to go back and do an updated review. I’m inviting two diners – the successful bidder and his or her guest – to join me for a multi-course dinner with wine and help me write the review. We’ll talk about the surroundings – the dining room ambience, noise level, lighting – the service (Enzo’s staff has always been the epitome of professionalism; has anything changed?) and of course the food. I’ll record your thoughts and use your quotes when I sit down to write the review.