spoleto exteriorThe area's first Spoleto, near UCF, when it opened in 2015

Spoleto, the Brazil-based Italian assemblage restaurant that came to Central Florida in 2015 only to close last year due to the pandemic, is returning to the area, but only virtually. For now.

It will take up residence within the warehouse environment of the Dollins Food Hall, a ghost kitchen west of downtown Orlando. Laura Henderson, who was managing partner when the four Central Florida locations closed in May 2020, is once again representing the brand. In fact, when she approached Spoleto’s Brazilian owners about reopening a franchise here, they said they’d get back to her. They did, Henderson said, about an hour later and offered her the franchises for all of Florida.


Shakers21 ext

Every so often, I like to stop by Shakers American Cafe, the longtime College Park diner, to remind myself what great food it serves. I go in expecting good, basic fare and I’m always impressed that it rises a few levels above that.

That was the case recently when a friend and I stopped in for a between breakfast and lunch meal – we didn’t call it brunch because that sounded inappropriately tony, and we were definitely there for breakfast.

My eyes were drawn immediately to the blackboard outside the restaurant that listed short rib hash as one of the day’s special. I’m a sucker for breakfast hash. If you’re ever sitting in a diner that has hash on its menu and you see me walk in, make a bet with your dining companion on what I’m going to order; you’re almost sure to win.


Boca21 ext

Whenever there’s a big change in a restaurant I’ve formerly reviewed, I like to return to see if there have been any major differences in the operation, whether it’s the food, the service or the physical surroundings.

I told you recently that Boca, the Park Avenue restaurant that opened in late 2014, had been sold. It was originally owned by a group out of Sarasota, where the original Boca was. (Curiously, there were no Bocas in actual Boca.)

The new owner is Artistry Restaurants, a relatively new group based in Winter Park that also operates Burger U at UCF. It also took ownership of Atlantic Beer and Oyster, the seafood bar in the Hidden Garden off Park Avenue, as well as the original Sarasota location. (A third Boca in Tampa’s Hyde Park had previously closed.)

Ownership changed several months ago, and after verifying that the kitchen had made all of the adjustments it was going to do, I decided to head back and check it out. I can report to you that Boca is virtually the same as it was when I first reviewed it in 2015.



Bad ass Sand

Here are the nominees for the 2021 Best Sandwich Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants.

You may vote for as many as three nominees.

You may also write in a candidate, but please, make sure the name isn't already on the list -- if it is, your entry and any subsequent votes for it will be deleted. Also, do not nominate a restaurant with more than three locations.

The top vote getter will advance to the finals.

Nominations will be accepted through Tuesday, Nov. 2.

After you make your selection, leave a comment below telling us why you think your favorite should advance to the finals. Be sure to tell us the name of the restaurant in your comment. 

See the nominees below.