I don’t know why – maybe it’s the years I spent in the Southwest prior to moving to Orlando – but I crave Mexican or Tex-Mex food this time of year. So I figured I’d indulge myself by visiting La Campana Mexican Restaurant, which opened on Lee Road a year and a half ago.
And it all would have been first rate if not for the chicharrones in guacamole. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.
This is the first time I’ve reviewed the Meatball Stoppe. I did, however, review a place called the Meatball Shoppe when it first opened nearly six years ago in, not so coincidentally, the same location.
They are, of course, the same business owned by the same people, Isabella and Jeff Morgia, the whole time. What happened, I’m guessing, is that someone else who owned the rights to the name Meatball Shoppe found out about the new Orlando restaurant and had a lawyer send one of those cheery little letters telling the Morgias to stop. So Stoppe they did.
Over the years, the restaurant has gotten more appreciated attention, including being featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, though it really isn’t any of those.
One thing seems to have changed since my review in January 2015: The original assemblage concept has been eased a bit. You no longer have to pick one from column A and one from column B. But the quality of the food has remained the same, which is quite good.
Kabooki Sushi and its owner, Henry Moso, seem to have done just fine over the past year. First, a second location of the popular restaurant opened in Bayhill Plaza in the Restaurant Row district. Then Moso was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. And then, Kabooki’s original location, in an odd spot on Colonial Drive near Maguire Boulevard, was renovated and enlarged.
Unfortunately, Moso did not advance to the Beard Award’s finals – and the awards ended up being cancelled altogether anyway. And since the Rising Star award is for chefs under 30, Moso has now aged out.
But he will undoubtedly have more awards in his future – Kabooki has already won a platinum Foodster Award for Best Sushi.
Have you heard about Dryuary? It’s where people pledge to go alcohol free – or stay dry – for the month of January. I’m sure that January was selected because it’s after the holidays when so many people tend to overindulge, but personally I think February would be a better choice because, you know, it’s shorter.
Now some people are pushing Veganuary, which means to follow a vegan diet for the first month of the year. Is there a meatless equivalent to dry? Vegged, maybe?
Anyway, if you’re among the carnivorous community attempting to eat a more plant-based diet, whether for a month or just a day, you might want to check out V.L.C. Vegan Eatery, a small restaurant on the east side of Orlando that recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Word comes that Peter Rosinola Jr. (pictured above), the owner operator of Palma Maria in Casselberry, has died. A Jan. 4 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page said:
It is with heartfelt sadness that we inform you that our beloved brother, Peter Rosinola Jr., has passed away. We greatly appreciate your sympathies and condolences as our family deals with this great loss. We will be closed for the time being. Thank you, The Rosinola Family
Palma Maria is one of the area’s older restaurants and I’d been yearning to revisit for the past year to review it as an Orlando Classic. It was a perennial Critic’s Choice in the Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie Awards when it had a Best Early Bird Dinner category. (remember early bird dinners?). It was, as you can gather from the note above, a family operation and it showed in the service and food quality. One of its more endearing features was that it baked its own bread and each table was given a whole loaf at the beginning of the meal, and if there was any left over the server would bag it up to be taken home.
Caribe Royale has a new executive chef. David Hackett, who most recently was the executive chef at the Four Diamond Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, has joined the Disney-area resort whose restaurants include the estimable Venetian Chop House. Hackett, who has also worked at properties owned by Marriott, Kessler, Starwood, Biltmore and Walt Disney World – he’s obviously a hotel man – has one multiple culinary awards, including the Brillat-Savarin Medaille de Merite. You know an award is prestigious when you can’t pronounce it.
Estefan Kitchen, the new Cuban restaurant at the Promenade at Sunset Place, has instituted a drag-themed brunch. This is not to be confused with the car shows that take place at the Prom – this is a different kind of drag. Every Sunday from now on, the Diva’s Dining Performance will take the stage from noon to 3 p.m. to entertain diners as they feast on such things as open-faced Cuban egg sandwiches, omelets, French toast, steak & eggs, and tres leches. Doesn’t sound like a drag at all. Reservations at the restaurant’s website.
The first two and a half months of 2020 were normal enough with the usual openings, closings and restaurant reviews – both positive and not-so. We began the year with news that K Restaurant and Wine Bar was closing because of the owner’s health, and a few days later word came that Urbain 40, the American cafe with a French name at Dellagio Plaza, had closed abruptly.
Review highlights included Spice Indian Grill;Hungry Pants, the meatless-or-not eatery in Sodo; Dexter’s New Standard, the relo of Dexter’s of Winter Park; El Vic’s Kitchen in College Park; a revisit to Stefano’s Trattoria; Elize, the very good Netherlands restaurant that took over the Rusty Spoon space; and Mia’s Italian Kitchen, an excellent Italian trattoria that was worth braving International Drive for.
I recall dining at Mia’s in early March. Word was already circulating that a novel coronavirus was going around. I remember begin careful not to shake hands with anyone. But I shared dishes with my dining companion and no one had come up with the term social distancing yet.
Then a couple of weeks later all hell broke loose.