FMI logoThe Funky Monkey Wine Company on Mills Avenue in the Mills 50 district will close Sunday. It opened eight years ago and became the initial business for what partners Eddie Nickell and Nicholas Olivieri would call FMI Restaurant Group. The Funky Monkey restaurant at Pointe Orlando, now called Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar, will continue to operate.

That will be the only remaining restaurant for the group, which at various times also operated Prickly Pear and Nick’s Italian Kitchen in Thornton Park, Banana’s Diner, also in Mills 50, and two other brands that took over the Banana’s space in a short period, including Mills Brewpub and Divas Dinner Theater.

In a message, Nickell said that he and Olivieri will retain ownership of the Mills 50 building and will turn it over to new tenants.

Funky Monkey will have a final event on Sunday from 6 to 10 p.m. 


Man, what a workout I had this weekend. I did a lot of lifting, and I’m feeling the pain a little this morning. Unfortunately, the pain is a headache.

I didn’t hit the gym, I was drinking red wine, which, according to this article which will immediately be printed out and shared via email by just about everyone who reads it, is the same thing.

According to the article — from Huffington Post, so you know it’s legit, tight? — “Research conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada has found that health benefits in resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, are similar to those we get from exercise.”

This isn’t new. The CBS News program 60 Minutes did a segment on what it called the “French Paradox” in November of 1991. It noted that although the French eat high fat foods, smoke excessively and exercise little, they tended to have a lower rate of heart disease.

The reason, the report concluded, was due to properties in red wine. (The French went on to clarify that it was exclusively French red wine.) I remember hearing from the owner of a wine store that at that time occupied a space under Church Street Station. The shop owner said he had seen an influx of “little old ladies” who had a sudden interest in drinking red wine. Some wanted to know if they spent more on a bottle would that mean it was better for the heart?

I wouldn’t be surprised if after this latest study our local wine shops will see more customers coming in in sweat pants.

As for me, I’m off to the “gym.”



I like hearing stories like this.

Emeril’s Orlando and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, the two local restaurants owned by a celebrity chef whose name escapes me at the moment, has announced some recent top personnel changes. Not only were the positions filled through internal promotions, but a couple of the people named as general manager started with the organization busing tables.

Andy Vaughn (pictured above) has been named the general manager of Emeril’s Orlando at Universal’s CityWalk; Eddie Raguso is the new gm at Tchoup Chop in the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal; and Douglas Braselman has been appointed chef de cuisine at the CityWalk restaurant.

Both Vaughn and Raguso began their careers busing tables, Raguso in 2000 and Vaughn in 2002. Vaughn worked his way up through the serving ranks and eventually joined the management team. He took a special interest in wine and was named sommelier for for Emeril’s Orlando in 2008, and anyone familiar with Emeril’s wine list knows that is no easy task. He has been serving as the gm at Tchoup Chop since 2013.

Raguso also worked his way up as a server and eventually manager at Emeril’s Atlanta. He returned to Orlando in 2004 as a floor manager at Tchoup Chop and then as a manager at Emeril’s Orlando.

Braselman is a native of New Orleans, which is home base for the Emeril’s empire. He has worked with a number of that city’s well known chefs, including Susan Spicer, Greg Collier, and James Wong before joining David Slater at the flagship Emeril’s in the Warehouse District.

In a statement, Emeril’s Homebase president Eric Linquest said, “Whenever we have the opportunity, the Emeril’s organization always looks to promote talented individuals within the family, already familiar with the Emeril’s culture.”

That’s something I wish more busers, waiters and even dishwashers would keep in mind. We tend to look on those jobs as menial. They should be seen as stepping stones to a satisfying career.

Congratulations to the new hires, and to Emeril’s for rewarding loyalty.


len and dani johnson

The space that currently is home to Wolfie’s Pizzamia in Lake Ivanhoe Village will soon become Better Than Sex. That’s the name of a dessert restaurant in Key West whose owners, Len and Danielle (Dani) Johnson, pictured above signing the papers, will bring to Orlando this summer.

Pizzamia, which is owned by White Wolf Cafe’s Michael Hennessey and located a couple of doors north of that popular spot, opened in 2013. The Johnsons take possession of the keys August 1, but Hennessey says he isn’t sure when he’ll close Pizzamia other than to say “sometime in July.”

The Key West BTS is a dessert-only restaurant that features a Red Room with, according to the website, “sunsual art on the walls and privacy booths for intimacy.” So that, I’m guessing, you can be alone with your parfait.

One of the items listed on the site is the Adult Apple — “Ephemere Apple Spiced Ale served in a tall beer glass with our signature, Caramel Rim Job,” a description I would not be able to give if I still worked for a family newspaper.


Summers are rough for Central Florida restaurants. With people on vacation or just too hot to go out, traffic numbers fall, and so do many businesses that had merely been surviving up to that point. Let’s just say that in summertime, the livin’ ain’t easy for restaurants.

It would appear that we have a couple of casualties to report: NOPA Grill in Winter Park and Belle Isle Bayou in Orlando.

According to neighbors, the cleverly named NOPA — it stands for Not On Park Avenue — has been sporadically occupied in recent days. “Sometimes they’re there, sometimes they’re not,” I was told. The phone is still connected but there is no answer, live or a recording.

The same is true for Belle Isle Bayou, the Cajun themed restaurant on South Conway Road at Hoffner Road. BIB also had a clever name — Belle Isle is an area of Louisiana, and it’s also the proximal community south of downtown.


H/T Doug Peddie