Stonewood

Stonewood Grill & Tavern, the Ormond Beach based restaurant company, has closed its Dr. Phillips location. The closing, which was unannounced and came as a surprise to employees, occurred at the end of service on Tuesday, March 28. The reason, according to someone within the company, was underperformance. Only that location is affected.

The Dr. Phillips Stonewood opened in 2001 and was the company’s ninth restaurant and second in the Greater Orlando area; a Stonewood Grill & Tavern had opened previously in Heathrow.

As I noted in my review of December 21, 2001, the Dr. Phillips Stonewood was a big hit with people in that neighborhood and seemed to be a new go-to place for socializing. (Note the line about people having a place to go to smoke.)

Capsized sign

Sometimes you find little gems in the oddest of places. And you won’t find too many places for a small take-out eatery than this one. It’s Capsized Kitchen, a small seafood-centric restaurant, tucked in a corner of a Sunoco gas station.

Let’s pause here while everyone gets the gas and grease jokes out of the way. Ready?

But there it is, past the shelves of the convenience store part of the station, a corner of the small structure with a professional grade kitchen operated, apparently, by a staff of two. As far as I could figure out, one is the main cook and the other helps out and takes the orders. Sometimes helping out takes precedence over taking orders.

Zora interior

Zora Grille, the Persian restaurant in Altamonte Springs that was reviewed here recently, is closed. The restaurant, at 1370 E. Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs, opened in 2015.

A note on the Zora Grille Facebook page on Thursday stated: “ Due to external hardships at this time we will be closing our doors for now until further notice. Thank you everyone for your patronage and kindness!”

But Tamara Khan, who co-owned the restaurant with her father, Reza, and was the restaurant’s chef, said by phone Monday morning that the closing is permanent. She expects the free-standing building to be leased.

Khan would not give any further reason for the sudden closing, only to say it was for personal reasons that could not be resolved. When asked specifically if it had anything to do with anti-Iranian sentiments in the community, Khan said there was never any such problem.

“Our customers are great,” she said.

Nonno exterior

When it was announced, in December, that Stefano LaCommare would be coming out of retirement to help out at his son’s restaurant, Nonno’s, many people were excited at the prospect of having him back in a kitchen.

The reality is even better: he’s back in the dining room.

LaCommare and his wife, Marie, have owned and operated several restaurants in the area over the last few decades. Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs was the most recent. A popular destination for families and lovers of uncomplicated cuisine, Stefano’s also became a workplace for the LaCommare’s children, including their son, Leonardo, or Leo.

So when they sold Stefano’s, in 2015, along with the name and the recipes, they declared themselves retired. Their daughter Antonella and her husband, Frank Paradiso, opened their own place, Antonella’s Pizzeria, in Winter Park.

Apparently Leo, who like his father is a cook, wanted his own restaurant, too, so he opened Nonno’s Italian Restaurant in Altamonte Springs. It is Stefano’s in almost every way except by name.

LosHermanos

Today we open the polls for voting in two new Foodster Awards categories: Best Mexican and Best Tex-Mex.

They’re different, of course, though, admittedly, the borderline separating the two cuisines is becoming blurrier and no wall of any height will likely ever separate them again. Still, there are some restaurants in the area that lean more to the authentic cuisine of Mexico and less to the dishes developed in the Lone Star state. The Foodster Awards nominations were designed with that in mind.

What’s the difference? Well, broadly, anything that includes yellow cheese, such as shredded cheddar, or wheat flour, especially in tortillas. Ground beef is more Texan than Mexican. Specifically, certain dishes like fajitas, chili con carne, quesadillas — these are American inventions (USA! USA!). But it isn’t uncommon to find these things on the menus of restaurants leaning toward traditional Mexican. Mex-Tex?

And Tex-Mex cuisine isn’t even based on the foods of the entire nation but rather just a portion of the Northern part of the country.

Tex-Mex cuisine developed when Texas settlers discovered the foods of the Mexicans near the border. They liked what they tasted, but the ingredients at hand weren’t the same. Wheat was more abundant than maize, so that’s what they made their tortillas out of.

Certainly, Mexican cuisine isn’t the only one in this country to be largely Americanized. Just about any Italian restaurant throughout the U.S. features dishes that were changed by immigrants. Italians settling in Brooklyn had to use what they had on hand. We really should have a category for Italikyn cuisine.

So, please vote for your favorite in both categories, and I hope you’ll pay special attention to the restaurants attempting to be more authentic. Not that Tex-Mex is inauthentic, but you know what I mean.

And I will not remove write-in candidates for one category that really should be in the other. You can make that call. But keep in mind, the Foodster Awards are for Independent Restaurants only — restaurants with more than three locations are not eligible.

Voting will continue through May 4, just in time to announce the winners for Cinco de Mayo, which is another Americanized holiday.

Click here to go to the Foodster Awards page.