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BoVine is just the sort of restaurant I look for when Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining comes around. It’s an upscale, fine dining restaurant where many of the a la carte menu items are already in the $40 range, so you know you’re going to get a terrific deal with three courses for that price. For many people, this is a great opportunity to try a really good restaurant.

In my original review of BoVine, I mentioned how much I liked the Applewood Smoked Bacon Slab, similar to a popular appetizer at famed Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn. It’s one of the starter choices on the Park Avenue restaurant’s Magical Dining menu and I recommend it heartily. Bovine’s Caesar Salad is another good choice.


Second Harvest Warehouse

September, which is just moments away, is Hunger Action Month and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is hosting two tours of its facility to show the public just how it manages to provide enough food for 250,000 meals every day. That’s right, a quarter of a millions meals every single day in our community.

There will be two tours in September at the facility at 411 Mercy Drive, Orlando – Sept. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Sept. 21 from 6 to 7 p.m. Food will be served (lunch on the 14th and a snack box on the 21st) and cost is free, but reservations are mandatory. Reservation deadline is one week before each date. Click here to nab your spot.

If you haven’t been, you should go. It’s an impressive facility, and the organization does tremendous work. A quarter of a million meals each day is mind boggling, and in today’s economy, the need won’t let up anytime soon.


Rocca della macie wine

Francesco’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Maitland is hosting a winemaker’s dinner in September with an actual winemaker in attendance.

Sergio Zingarelli of Tuscany’s Rocca delle Macie winery will be at the Sept. 21 dinner to talk about the wines and the history of the estate. And I’m sure he’ll have stories to tell. He is the son of the late Italo Zingarelli, an Italian film producer known for his “spaghetti westerns.” Italo bought the winery, located in the Chianti Classico region, in 1973.

There is no spaghetti on Francesco Aiello’s five-course menu but there will be some of the great food he’s known for. And each course will be paired with on of Rocca delle Macie’s wines. See the menu and pairings below.

The dinner, Wed., Sept. 21, will begin at 7 p.m. Cost is $100 per person and reservations may be made by calling the restaurant at 407-960-5533.

Francesco’s Ristorante & Pizzeria is at 400 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland. The wine dinner menu is below.



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If you’ve ever strolled around Midtown Manhattan you’ve noticed the numerous food carts. There’s one on just about every corner. And some of the most recognizable – and most popular – are the ones known as The Halal Guys. They’re all over the city and have been around for more than three decades. I first encountered one of their carts at 53d Street and 6th Avenue in the early nineties.

The concept was started by three Egyptian men who sold hot dogs from the corner carts, mainly for Muslim taxi drivers who had few choices for a quick meal with food certified halal. To oversimplify it, halal is to Muslims what kosher is to Jews. The Koran specifies which foods are permissible (halal) and which are forbidden (haram). So a place that certified the food was halal and served around the clock (see: sleeps, city that never) made it very popular. It wasn’t unusual to see long lines snaking down the block with people waiting for the food, especially after The Halal Guys expanded beyond hot dogs and included other meats and rice platters.


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We have a plethora of casual Italian restaurants – pizza and pasta houses and red-sauce eateries – that offer a good meal, especially for families. But there is a dearth of fine dining Italian restaurants that serve traditional Italian regional classics in a a more upscale atmosphere suitable for a romantic night out, with fine white tablecloths instead of checkered. Among those few restaurants, Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar is one of the best.

Owner Rocco Potami is in his 16th year of serving classic Italian cuisine in his Winter Park hideaway spot. The Italy native is a stickler for details and always insists on the finest quality.

Which makes Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar a great choice for Magical Dining, running this year from Aug. 26 through Oct. 3. Potami has put together a fine representation of his regular menu for the three-course table d’hote. And priced at $40 per person plus tax and gratuity, there are some bargains to be found.