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Vinzos logo

Vinzo’s, an Italian grill and pizzeria in Casselberry, has been voted Best Pizza in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. Pizzeria Valdiano came in second and Jerry’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant in Longwood was third. Only four votes separated second and third place.

In placing her vote, Theresa M. Albarello said, “Vinzo’s is the closest pizza to what I was used to on Long Island, NY. Nicely presented and just enough of everything on it, including well done crust.”

In voting for Pizzeria Valdiano, which has two locations, Gina Loveterrell wrote, “#PizzeriaValdiano has the greatest guys there. Friendly, great food among great customer service EVERY visit!”

“Valdiano's is close to NY,” said Mary-Ellen Riordan Galaida.

Perry Tolos said, “Besides being a Longwood staple for decades, Jerry's pizza hits the spot every time with perfectly cooked crust, the most flavorful sauce, and the freshest toppings. If you've never been, you're missing out; if you have been before, you already know it's time to go back!”

This was one of the most hotly contested categories to date. SJO readers are clearly passionate about their pizzas. And the fact that we had so many worthy finalists is testament to the ever improving pizzeria scene in Central Florida.

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Jaleo exterior

For a video version of this review, click here.

Once you know the meaning of the word Jaleo, it all makes more sense. Commotion, uproar, din, jumble — all those translations could describe the new restaurant at Disney Springs. It can also mean revelry, defined as lively and noisy festivities, especially when alcohol is involved. Let’s go with that one.

Jaleo (say hah-LAY-oh) is a Spanish restaurant from José Andrés. In fact, the official name is Jaleo by José Andrés. Andrés has been a well-known chef for many years, but he has been particularly celebrated over the past year for his organization’s efforts in feeding the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and federal employees affected by the recent partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C., where he is based. He has been recognized as Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation and last year was named that organization’s Humanitarian of the Year. He has twice been on Time magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.” The original Jaleo, which opened in Washington in 1993, is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant in this year’s Beard Awards. He has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Disney Springs Jaleo is the chain’s fifth — others are in the D.C. area and Las Vegas — and the largest.

And it certainly is big. Occupying the lakefront space previously occupied by Wolfgang Puck Cafe, it is multileveled and sprawls over 22,000 square feet, with multiple bars and seating, both inside and out, for 543 people. (Puck recently opened Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill elsewhere at Disney Springs.)

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SOW dinosauer

  • A reminder that the always fun Science of Wine is Saturday, April 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. at, appropriately enough, the Orlando Science Center. This is the annual event that destroys the myth that wine is created by magic. This year, our friends Kendra Lott of Edible Orlando and Tasty Chomp’s Ricky Ly will collaborate on “Supermarket Science,” a spin-the-wheel trivia contest on food knowledge. Proceeds from the evening go to the Science Center. Learn about the science of ticket sales here.
  • Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen at 1830 E. Colonial Drive in Orlando is in soft opening. I don’t know what that means anymore.
  • Super Rico Columbian Bistro in downtown Orlando is in a soft closing. The owners posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page that they are closed for “construction and remodeling.” That’s usually code for a hard opening, but this one looks legit — a reopening is promised for sometime in May. No word on whether that will be soft or hard.

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Bangkok Thai exterior

While I sat waiting for my food at Bangkok Thai Passion at one of only two occupied tables, a woman came rushing through the front door. She loudly expressed relief that the restaurant was open — she had tried to call in an order but the restaurant’s phone was not working. She apparently feared the worst.

I guess we all have different things that stir our passion. My experience at the Ocoee restaurant was more frigid. At least that’s what I felt from my server, who seemed desperate to be anywhere doing anything other than where and what she was. Clearly, waiting tables is not her passion. (This was in contrast to the genuinely warm welcome I had from someone I assume to be an owner when I first came through the door.)