Maria and Enzo logos.001

FIRST ON SJO -- Three new venues have been confirmed for Disney Springs: Maria & Enzo’s, an Italian trattoria; Enzo’s Hideaway, a speakeasy; and Pizza Ponte, a fast-casual concept. All three are being developed by the Patina Restaurant Group and will be located next to the Edison, which is also under construction.

The trattoria’s backstory, because all venues at Disney Springs must have one, is that it occupies an abandoned airline terminal from the 1930s. Its decor will feature air travel memorabilia and maps. The dining room will have 50-foot ceilings and a view of Lake Buena Vista, so apparently the airline terminal served seaplanes. The menu will have a Sicilian accent, with Arancini di Carne (rice balls stuffed with meat), Melanzane Parmigiana (eggplant Parmesan), and handmade pastas served tableside. Other highlights include fresh fish, steaks and chops.

Enzo’s Hideaway occupies supposed rum-runner tunnels and is accessible through Maria & Enzo’s. Back in 2015, this venue was rumored to be called the Neverland Tunnels, but someone probably thought better of associating the Lost Boys with running rum (though I’ve long suspected Tinker Bell). Enzo’s Hideaway will feature Prohibition-style cocktails but will also serve a menu of more casual Italian dishes.

Pizza Ponte will be a fast-casual dining concept with pastries, pizza, Italian sandwiches, and espresso. It will feature Bomboloni, or Italian doughnuts, Triangolo (stuffed pizza bread) and Porchetta, as well as pizza by the slice.

All three restaurants are slated to open during the upcoming holiday season.

tchoup1

Emeril's Tchoup Chop, the pseudo Hawaiian restaurant developed by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, will close Dec. 31. The restaurant, which opened in 2003, is in the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

Staff members were informed of the impending closing Thursday evening.

Tchoup Chop, which got its name from Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans and which Lagasse had first intended to be a steakhouse in that city, had a rocky start. Despite the celebrity of its owner and a stunning design by the Rockwell Group of New York, the restaurant's cuisine at first seemed forced and lacked focus. Also, few people who dined there knew what to expect of Hawaiian cuisine. Most of the initial food, noted in my first review of Tchoup Chop in March of 2003, was over salted.

A re-review in July of 2005 did not find things had improved.

Eventually, however, Greg Richie, currently chef/partner at Soco in Thornton Park, was hired away from Roy's on Sand Lake Road. Roy's, of course, originated in Hawaii and Richie worked in the islands under founder Roy Yamaguchi. He brought more focus to the menu and Tchoup Chop has generally gotten good reviews since then.

But the location is an odd one, located around the back at the ballroom entrance to the resort rather than at the front of the hotel. Lagasse's first restaurant in the area, Emeril's Orlando, at Universal CityWalk, has higher visibility. And with it being essentially a second location of the original Emeril's in New Orleans, the stylized Louisiana food is more readily embraced. Still, sales are also flat at Emeril's Orlando, which reportedly pays Universal $130,000 per month in rent. 

By the way, the Rockwell Group also designed Cirque du Soleil's theater at Walt Disney World, which will also close its La Nouba show on Dec. 31. So, coincidence.

A manager at the restaurant Friday afternoon confirmed that it will close but could not give details. Calls to other restaurant officials were not immediately returned.

More information will be added as it is learned.

Jax Interior

Jax Fifth Avenue has returned to downtown Orlando. Except that it's no longer called Jax Fifth Avenue, which is fine because it isn't on Fifth Avenue. But then, it never was on Fifth Avenue, it was on South Court Avenue. But who would name a restaurant Jax South Court Avenue?

The same person who would name the new restaurant Jax Thornton Park, I suppose. That would be Jack Thompson. The original name was meant to be a tongue in cheek play on Saks Fifth Avenue's name. And no, I don't know why the original wasn't Jaks. Ask Thompson.

Those who are old enough to remember the first Jax and who are still able to consume solid food will find that a lot is the same at the new place, which is in the former Baoery/City Fish space on Central Boulevard.

 Swandolphin

The eighth annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27 and 28. However, if you haven't already bought your tickets, it's only on Friday -- the Saturday event has already sold out.

The resort's food and beverage director, Tony Porcellini, said he's expecting about four thousand attendees over the two days, tasting samples of food from the various on-site restaurants, sipping wines, and attending seminars.

That's a big change from the first year that the Swan and Dolphin held the event to feed off of the larger and more popular food & wine festival occurring a scones' throw away at Epcot.

That first year, the event was contained to the pedestrian causeway that links the two hotels. Now, it spreads out onto both properties and even indoors for some events, like the new-this-year Bubble Lounge. That's a speakeasy-style venue featuring all sparkling wines. (Bubble Lounge -- get it?)

Most attendees are content to wander about and try the foods from restaurants such as Shula's Steak House, Todd English's bluezoo, Il Mulino Trattoria and Kimonos, among others.

There are also themed areas, including: Carnival Corner, with funnel cakes and corn dogs; Chinatown, with duck baos and dumplings; and a Beer Garden for pretzels and schnitzel.

The classic is from 5:30 to 9 p.m. both days with seminars beginning at 4:30. Get more information and tickets (for Friday) at the official website.

 Food and wine video

Check out the video that I did with our friends at icFlorida for other details.

Rendering Circo

Circo, the Italian trattoria from the Le Cirque restaurant group in New York, will not be opening in Orlando as previously announced.

The restaurant concept had been intended for the top of the currently-under-construction parking garage next to Mango's on International Drive. The franchise had been optioned by Andrew Gross of Sunshine Ventures.

Disclosure: Sunshine Ventures was a client of Scott Joseph Company's consulting services.

Le Cirque, which opened in 1974 and made owner Sirio Maccioni a celebrity restaurateur, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York in March. At the time, the Maccioni family said that it intended to keep both Le Cirque, which is in the Bloomberg building on East 58th Street in Manhattan, and Circo open during the bankruptcy proceedings. However, it was announced last week that Le Cirque would close its current location, probably by the end of the year.

No such announcement has been made for Circo, and another Circo franchise opened recently in Dallas.

But Gross said that he was terminating the agreement to open in the new structure on International Drive, known as Hollywood Plaza, while he sees "how the NY troubles play out."

In a statement, Gross wrote: "Although the prospects of bringing a world-famous brand to Orlando were exciting, [Hollywood Plaza developer] Josh [Wallack] and I mutually agreed a short time ago that now is not the time to open a Le Cirque brand location with the recent economic issues plaguing Le Cirque/Circo in New York City. As such, we mutually agreed to terminate the lease in Hollywood Plaza..."

Gross said he does not currently have plans to open Circo at another location in Central Florida. Instead, he is devoting his attention to a new sports and entertainment themed restaurant called Groovy Goat at a new theme park in Foley, Alabama.

Maccioni originally developed the Circo concept for his sons to operate. One of the sons, Mauro, has told New York press that the family is considering relocating Le Cirque next year.