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Kings Pizza box

I suppose it wasn’t very sporting of me to visit a pizzeria that claims to serve New York style pizzas on the day I was scheduled to fly to New York.

Actually, it was my second visit to Kings Pizza on Curry Ford Road, a second location for the business, which also operates a restaurant on International Drive. The first time I visited the Curry Ford location was back in June and I remembered thinking they didn’t really seem completely set up yet.

Kings Pizza interior

It was quiet, no noise from the two people in the open kitchen area and certainly none from diners, because there were none. The black wall across from the cooking and ordering station was painted black and had graffiti-like scrawls in chalk that looked temporary. And there was a refrigerated counter, the type you might expect to have grab-and-go selections that need to be cooled but also want to be nicely displayed, that was empty and unplugged.

Kings Pizza meat

The pizza on that visit was just OK. The pepperoni slice had good coverage but the Meat Lovers was pathetically topped with scrawny bits of tiny ham cubes and half moons of thinly sliced sausage as well as a few of the same pepperoni. Not really a meat lovers pizza, more of a platonic pie.

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Jay Zavada4R Restaurant Group, parent company of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, has made recent changes to its headquarters operations, outsourcing payroll, benefits and human resources divisions to third party vendors and creating a chief marketing officer position.

Joining the Winter Park based company as CMO is Jay Zavada, left, a former vice president of global relationship marketing for Walt Disney Parks.

“It’s a change we’ve been looking at for some time,” said company founder and CEO John Rivers. “But we didn’t want to do it until we had something lined up” for the workers whose jobs would be eliminated. Rivers, speaking by phone Monday morning, said that positions have been arranged for two the three workers let go and he believes he has something lined up for the third.

“We’ve made a big investment in marketing,” said Rivers, “which is not something we’ve done historically.” He said that as the company approaches its ninth year and opens more restaurants outside the Central Florida market where it is well known, “We need to have more than a grassroots marketing plan.” Rivers said that when he opened a 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Georgia, “We learned that not everyone in Atlanta knows who we are.”

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Franciacorta glass

Do you know the wines of Franciacorta? It's not a winery or the name of a winemaker. It's not even the name of a vineyard.

It's a sparkling wine from Italy in the region of Lombardy.

Usually when you hear the words "sparkling wine" and "Italy" together you immediately think Prosecco. And if you're like me, you turn your nose up. I find most Proseccos to be too sweet and ultimately inferior to Champagnes, a comparison that is inevitable, seeing as how Champagne is to sparkling wine as Kleenex is to facial tissue (speaking of turning one's nose up).

There are some big differences between Proseccos and Champagnes, one being that Proseccos are made only with a grape known as glera. Another is the way the second fermentation -- the one that causes the bubbles -- is achieved. For Champagne, it's a process called méthode champenoise, which has the second fermentation occurring in the same bottle you will pop open for your next celebration.

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WP Fishco ext

I hadn't visited the Winter Park Fish Company since it opened more than eight and a half years ago. Opening chef George Vogelbacher left the business a few years ago to cook at Maxine's on Shine. There have been lots of other changes, here and around the neighborhood (who remembers that O'boys was just up the block in the building where Ravenous Pig is now -- and where Vogelbacher's Le Cordon Bleu restaurant was for many years?).

I figured it was time to go back and check it out.

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Shakers interior

Just what was it about 1993?

We've been noting restaurant milestones all year, and while we did have one golden anniversary -- Beefy King -- the majority have been silver.

Add to that list Shakers American Cafe on Edgewater Drive in College Park. It was in August of 1993 that the breakfast and lunch spot first opened. (The 23d is the official date.) The original owner named the restaurant for the collection of salt and pepper shakers that not only sit on each table but occupy space on shelves and in every nook and cranny. According to the current owners, Greg and Terry Granda, guests were offered a free piece of pie for every set they donated. The pie is pretty darned good so the collection has grown over the years.

The Grandas are the fourth owners, purchasing the business in 2014. They were College Park residents and fans of Shakers, so when the opportunity came to take it over, they jumped at it. Greg Granda had studied at the Culinary Institute of American and cooked in several New York City restaurants, so they were familiar with the business. They've kept up the quality, keeping many of the original favorites, including the Grilled Blueberry Muffin, and have grown the patronage -- and the collection of shakers.

Here's an edited version of a Facebook Live broadcast I did with the Grandas from the restaurant recently.