Wendy LopezGaleano

Wendy Lopez, who opened the Spanish restaurant Tapa Toro as executive chef three and a half years ago, is leaving to assume the executive chef position at Reyes Mezcalaria in Orlando's North Quarter district.

Francisco Galeano, who goes by Frank, and who has been serving as Tapa Toro's chef de cuisine, has been promoted to executive chef, according to owner Katerina Coumbaros. "Frank has been an instrumental part of our culinary team since opening our doors," Coumbaros said in a statement, "and will continue to inspire Tapa Toro’s kitchen and menu moving forward."

To accentuate that Lopez's leaving is amicable, she and Coumbaros told SJO the news in a conference call Wednesday afternoon. Lopez's resignation from Tapa Toro is effective Oct. 2.

Lopez, whose heritage is Mexican, said she was excited to be moving to Reyes where she can present traditional Mexican cuisine. She said that she was grateful for the time she had working at Tapa Toro and with Galeano.


Taverna Opa Pastitsio copy

Pastitsio is one of the more popular dishes that you'll find on Greek menus. And the one served at Orlando's Taverna Opa is one of the best you can find.

In this edition of Compliments of the Chef, owner Vassilis Coumbaros demonstrates how to make it the traditional Greek way.

After watching Coumbaros, I went home and gave the recipe a try. I used penne pasta instead of the Greek macaroni that Coumbaros uses in the video, but it turned out just fine.

Watch the video and then give it a try. If you need a little more inspiration, visit Taverna Opa and try the real thing.


Noble ext

This is certainly an unusual location for any restaurant let alone a barbecue joint. The Noble Smokesman occupies a space in a compound of offices and nonfood businesses on Lake Ellenor Drive, about a block off of South Orange Blossom Trail. (The street name sounded familiar to me and it wasn't until I found the smokehouse that I realized it was across from the former Darden Restaurants headquarters.) The complex looks more like a place you'd find an accountant's office or maybe a dentist.

Also unlike other barbecue restaurants, Noble has a polished and spiffy look inside, but that's probably more because of its newness. It has clean wood-look floors and a white subway-tile wall in the area behind the counter. For some reason there are logs on some of the tables.


Venetian dining room

As you know, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide has a drawing almost every week for a gift certificate to a local restaurant. It's our way of saying thank you for being a reader.

This week's drawing, on Friday, will be a special one for a $100 certificate to the AAA 4 Diamond-rated Venetian Chop House at the Caribe Royale Hotel. This is one of Orlando's finest restaurants and we're pleased to have our friends at the Venetian make this offer.

A note to the winner: The certificate must be redeemed between October 1 and October 31, 2018.

As always, the winner's name will be selected at random from among the recipients of the SJO e-letter. If you're already on the list, you're already entered in this and all future drawings (unless you unsubscribe, of course).

If you're not signed up, send a text message with only SJO in the message field to the number 66866. We'll have you signed up right away. You may also click the link on the front page of ScottJosephOrlando.com to sign up directly.

And here's something new. If you're a restaurateur, add your name to the Restaurant List. You'll get special notices, such as calls to be included in holiday dining lists. And don't worry, you'll still be included in the drawings.

The code for restaurateurs to text is SJC to 66866. (Sorry, there currently isn't a direct link to sign up for the Restaurant List.)

The drawing will take place Friday evening, so be sure to sign up before then.

Venetian Chop House is at the Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando. It's open for dinner Monday through Saturday.