Pepes Cantina exterior

Mi Tomatina, the paella place in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, is now Pepe’s Cantina. While Spanish may still be spoken here, the dialect is more Mexican than Catalan. And there’s a distinct Texas accent, as well.

Pepe’s Facebook page (the website is still “under construction) states that chef Jose Baranenko’s menu “puts a new twist on traditional Mexican cuisine.” Inasmuch as fajitas and nachos — and burgers, for that matter — are Mexican it’s only because they migrated from the country to the north.

But I’ll not quibble about authenticity. I had a pleasant visit to Pepe’s recently, and if the cantina vibe isn’t quite in sync with such neighbors as Chez Vincent, Mynt and Armando’s — Pepe’s Facebook page is promoting an event called Cinco de Drinko — it isn’t any more out of place than, say, Dexter’s down the block.

And to be honest, the place was fairly subdued when I visited, even though it was a Friday evening. The small dining room was all but empty, but the sidewalk tables out front were filled. My guest and I didn’t want to be inside (and alone) so one of the staffers asked us if we’d like to check out the tables by the bar in the back. If the bar was there when it was still Mi Tomatina, it had escaped my notice. We grabbed one of the high-top tables across from the bar and looked over the menu.


Purple Cabbage

Though we all crave a comforting mound of creamy, smashed taters, a sassy sauté of purple cabbage, toasted walnuts, balsamic vinegar and creamy goat cheese creates a warm side dish that is loaded with antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C.

This zippy dish could be a sassy new side for Thaksgiving, but you also can enjoy as a lo-carb, veggie main course any time. With gorgeous color and tons of diva style, it comes together in about 10 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to catch up with the relatives on turkey day.


Phillip Ponticelli, who has been the chef at Citricos in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa since 2006, is leaving that popular restaurant to take over the kitchen at Golden Oak, Disney’s ultra upscale home development. The gated community’s club house has a private dining room for residents and their guests, and the Golden Oak website lists in-home dinners and parties as one of the resident services.

In an unusual move, Ponticelli will be replaced by a chef hired from outside instead of by a culinary cast member. The chef’s name has not been released yet, but I’ve learned that it is someone from Miami.

Citricos is considered to be on the same dining level as California Grill and Flying Fish Cafe. The restaurant was originally called Flagler’s and had an Italian menu. It was rebranded as Citricos in 1997 and underwent a full redesign by Martin Dorf of New York (who also did the original designs for California Grill and Flying Fish Cafe). Roland Muller was the first chef to lead Citricos, followed by Gray Byrum. When Byrum left the company, Ponticelli was hired to move to the Grand Floridian’s main building from Narcoossee’s, where he was also the chef.


Cappadocia notice

Cappadocia, the Turkish restaurant that moved into the former Cafe Italiano space on Semoran Boulevard in east Orlando, has been closed since Tuesday. A large yellow notice on the door states that it has been closed "to protect public health and safety" and that it must be inspected and approved by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants before it can reopen. The greeting on the restaurant's phone answering machine says that it is closed due to plumbing problems. We all know how difficult it is to get a plumber in an emergency, but four days? That's a long time for a restaurant to be turning away business. More when it is learned.





Urbain logoUrbain 40, the “American Brasserie and Lounge” that is going in to the former Cantina Laredo space at the Dellagio, has announced November 8 for its opening date. It will open for dinner only at first with plans for lunch hours sometime later.

As announced earlier, the restaurant is being developed by Orlando attorney Jaafer Choufani, son of longtime area restaurateur Rashid Choufani. (The elder Choufani specified when Urbain was announced in July that because of a noncompete clause he has with Disney, where his Paradiso 37 restaurant is currently undergoing expansion at Disney Springs, he is not involved with the Restaurant Row project.)

Urbain is the French spelling of urban; the 40 apparently refers to the 1940s. The restaurant’s website — presently a single page that doesn’t offer much information, let alone a menu — describes it as a “1940s neighborhood eatery” with an atmosphere “reminiscent of the big band era.” A couple of photos depict a charcuterie platter and a skillet of moules frites, but few other clues to the cuisine of chef Jean-Stephane Poinard except to call it “inspired by American and continental classics.” But it looks like the “American Brasserie and Lounge” will have a French vibe. It will be interesting to see how that all comes together because, if I’m not mistaken, France wasn’t a particularly festive place in the 1940s.

Here’s hoping it all comes together nicely. It will be good to see another independent restaurant open in that area. Among Urbain 40’s neighbors are Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, Dragonfly, Peperoncino Cucina and the Pharmacy.