PioPio ext

I first visited Pio Pio Latin Cuisine on Semoran Boulevard in the middle of March and, as irony would have it, I ordered takeout thinking that I’d return in a week or two for an in-house visit. And we all know what happened next.

But seeing as I had a good takeout experience, I figured I might as well go ahead and tell you about it.

There are other Pio Pios (Piae Piae?) in the area and although it doesn’t say so on any of the restaurants’ websites, they are all related via ownership. The menus are similar, but, as a pleasant young man at the Semoran Boulevard restaurant explained, “We all serve the same food, but there might be subtle differences like in a sauce.”


Okra iStill

In this episode, chef and cookbook author Hari Pulapaka shows me how to make bhindi masala, a popular okra dish from India.

It’s a recipe from Pulapaka’s upcoming book, Dreaming In Spice, a Sinfully Vegetarian Odyssey.

Many of the ingredients may be found in your favorite grocery store, but you may need to go to an Indian specialty store, such as Spice House in Longwood, for the curry leaves. (They keep the curry leaves behind the checkout counter, for some reason.)

Watch the video then read Pulapaka’s recipe below. And make the naan, too, it really adds to the enjoyment.

Here’s the excerpt from Pulapaka’s book:


Antonios ext

Antonio’s in Maitland, the two-story Italian venue, has always offered two distinct dining experiences – a casual cafe and market on the ground floor and an upscale ristorante above.

It continues to offer separate experiences in today’s restrictive dining atmosphere. The cafe is promoting its takeout menu while the upstairs dining room is open to limited-capacity dining in.

The two almost act as separate businesses: visit the parent website and you’ll be asked to choose between the two venues. The cafe, available for takeout only, has an online ordering form but the upstairs restaurant does not. After looking over both menus, I really wanted to order my takeout from the upstairs restaurant, and I was delighted to learn when I called that that would be just fine and that my order could be taken over the phone.

Side note: Antonio’s is participating in Magical Dining and even though its listing on Visit Orlando’s official website says the special menu is available only only for dine in, the young man who answered the phone told me it could be gotten for takeout.


Lombardis ext

Lombardi’s Seafood, one of the area’s premier fishmongers, is beefing up its cafe offerings with the hiring of two high-profile chefs: Austin Boyd and Yoshi Pintar.

Boyd was most recently part of Jason and Sue Chin’s Good Salt Restaurant Group (Osprey, Seito Sushi, Reyes) and left after a recent restructuring. Pintar is known by many in the area as Chef Yoshi.

Pintar, who has worked at JW Marriott and Four Seasons, started at the Fairbanks Avenue seafood shop Friday rolling sushi and preparing fresh poke bowls. Boyd will begin developing items for the cafe menu as well as food kits and prepared dishes customers can take home to make or reheat.

Lombardis casesOwner Mike Lombardi said by phone Friday that he had known both chefs for a long time and their availability worked for his longterm plans for the 50-year-old business.

“Austin and I have been talking for a while,” he said. “I have been trying to find the right person that can really bring fresh ideas to not only the cafe but is also interested in making items for retail so that we can help our customers have a better experience cooking seafood at home.”

Lombardi said he has no plans to become a fine dining restaurant, or even an evening dinner destination. “We’re working on a late afternoon, happy hour kind of thing,” he said, eventually featuring a raw bar and tapas menu.

Boyd will also be introducing nonseafood items, including a house burger and a Nashville hot chicken sandwich.

Lombardi said he’s bringing in more refrigeration units to showcase the chefs’ items. He’ll also be featuring recipe cards and purchasing guidance for seafood-cooking novices.

Lombardi's Seafood moved to its current location at 1888 W. Fairbanks Ave. in Winter Park five years ago from its original location near the corner of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Orange Avenue. It has been in operation since 1961.


Stock the Shelves

Food insecurity has been a local problem for a long time, and it’s getting worse as the pandemic rages on. Thousands of Central Floridians remain furloughed – many from jobs that were low-paying to begin with – and are struggling to pay bills, rent and buy food. To get a gut-punching idea of the situation, read Gabrielle Russon’s article in the Orlando Sentinel about a weekly food giveaway for people out of work with a line of cars that stretches two miles.

Breadlines have become motorized. And instead of the haggard faces of downtrodden men seen in Depression-era photographs, these lines are occupied by your neighbors.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, which has been fighting the hunger fight for years, notes that the area is expecting a 49 percent increase in the number of people who will face food insecurity this year. One in six Central Floridians.

So Second Harvest has launched a monthlong campaign to Stock the Shelves as part of a national initiative called Hunger Action Month. The organization is encouraging those of us fortunate to have enough to take action to help others. This may include donating 30 nonperishable food items – one for every day of September; donating $30 for 30 days of hunger (or more if you’re able); donating half of your buy-one-get-one food purchase; or signing up to volunteer – those two-mile-long food lines don’t staff themselves.

You can learn more – and start getting involved – at FeedHopeNow. You’ll also find others ways to help at Second Harvest’s Facebook page.