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Soupa ext

If you’re not familiar with the terms manga, anime or Dragon Ball Z, you may find the surroundings at Soupa Saiyan a little odd. Actually, even if you know about those things you may find the surroundings odd. But you might understand them a little more.

Soupa Saiyin (pronounce it like you’re sayin’ sayin’) is a hole-in-the-wall noodle house, the wall in question being in a sketchy looking mini strip mall on Vineland Road. The decor is based on manga (either comic books or graphic novels depending on your level of devotion) and anime, the Japanese animation style, usually based on manga sources, used in films and television shows. One such show is a franchise known as Dragon Ball Z and images and merchandise from the series fill the place.

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PastaLovers front

Pasta Lovers Trattoria was Jeno Paulucci’s bid to steal some of Olive Garden’s thunder, though it barely caused a rumble.

Paulucci had made his fortune in the Chun King line of frozen Chinese-esque foods, including pizza rolls, and also with his frozen Jeno’s Pizza. He used some of his wealth to develop the community of Heathrow.

And then he turned his sights on restaurants, opening Pasta Lovers in Heathrow in late 1989.

Actually, the Heathrow restaurant was the third – two others opened first in New York, and Paulucci had told me at the time that he got the inspiration for Pasta Lovers from a restaurant near his Essex House apartment in Manhattan.

Back then, Olive Garden was still owned by General Mills and was the only national non-pizza Italian chain. Just think about that for a minute. The owner of Chili’s had just acquired a San Antonio, Tex., restaurant called Romano’s Macaroni Grill and was set to expand it. Paulucci thought his Pasta Lovers Trattoria would earn a big share of the market.

It didn’t.

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Palma exterior

The former Palma Maria restaurant space in Casselberry is getting a new tenant. NY Giant Pizza, which has a small shop on Colonial Drive near Semoran Boulevard, will move in as soon as permitting is approved, according to owner Domingo Montes. Montes, who grew up in New York, opened his pizza place in a former taco shop about six years ago and said that the Palma Maria location will double or triple the amount of space he has now. Interesting fact about Montes: he’s 100 percent blind.

Palma Maria was a longtime local Italian favorite that closed when its owner and operator Peter Rosinola Jr. died unexpectedly in early January. The closing was supposed to be temporary, but the family decided a few weeks later not to reopen.

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Hangry Bison burger

Note: This article has been updated with the names of some of the other top vote-getters.

The readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide have voted the Hangry Bison the winner of Best Burger 2021 in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

Perennial favorite and top winner of the 2020 award Tap Room at Dubsdread was second and Kiwi’s Pub & Grill of Altamonte Springs dropped from second to third.

“Hangry Bison has a wide variety of burgers and all of them are delicious and mouth-watering!” wrote Constance Samuelson after placing her vote. “You can choose from the menu of creative burgers and design your own!”

Corrina Skye Quesada said Hangry Bison’s burger were “the definition of a food-gasm” and that the restaurant had converted her “from veganism to a meat-loving woman.”

Hangry Bison opened three years ago in Winter Park Village and will open a second location in Winter Garden later this year.

Teak Neighborhood Grill  and Mason Jar Provisions tied for fourth place. The Whiskey followed with the next highest number of votes.

Scott Joseph's Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants celebrate excellence in Central Florida's nonchain culinary community and are open to businesses with three or fewer locations. Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.

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Lombardi ext

Lombardi’s has long been my go-to fishmonger. I always appreciate the variety of fresh fish even though I generally stick to a few usuals. (Swordfish steaks cooked sous vide is my current favorite.)

But I always try to get to the shop early, as soon as it opens, to get the best selection. And so I’m usually there too early to have something from the adjoining cafe. Plus, if I’m cooking fish that night I’m not likely to have seafood for lunch.

But I recently made a point of visiting during lunchtime and found the food to be mostly good even if the overall experience was less so.