On July 17, Joe Liguori, the founder of Pizzeria Valdiano and the Hangry Bison, will celebrate 20 years in the restaurant business.
Except he’s actually been in the restaurant business for much, much longer.
“I was born into it, literally,” said Liguori. He was sitting in the Pizzeria Valdiano in Winter Park Village, which was the first of several that he would open over the years and is just a few steps away from his first Hangry Bison, and was reminiscing about his early life in the business.
His parents, Michael and Maria, emigrated from Italy, met while working at the same restaurant and got married. “By the time I was born,” said Liguori, “my parents had a small place up north, so as long as I can remember I’ve been working in restaurants.”
His earliest recollection is at his father’s first restaurant in Orlando, Michael’s, which opened in the early nineteen-eighties. Michael Liguori sold that restaurant to a cousin, also named Michael, and he and Maria opened a restaurant on a then-remote stretch of Alafaya Trail north of UCF. They called the restaurant Peppino’s, which means little Giuseppe or little Joe. “I was Peppino himself!” said Liguori.
You probably know Brazas Chicken from its restaurant in the Fort Gatlin Shopping Center in SoSoDo where it’s been serving its Peruvian style rotisserie chicken for 16 years. It had such a loyal fan base that it stayed open – and was the only food or beverage operation to do so – during the shopping center’s transition from its days of abandoned decrepitude to its current renovated and vibrant status as a happening restaurant venue.
Or you may have experienced Brazas when it opened a stand last year in the Marketplace at Avalon Park’s food hall.
But it’s unlikely you know the Brazas Chicken that recently opened. Yes, it has the same owner – Franco DelSolar – and its menu still features the crispy skinned/juicy meated chicken that first made it popular. But here the menu has been expanded to feature other Peruvian specialties.
Kung Fu Tea is the business that will replace Too Much Sauce at Mills Park in the Mills 50 district. KFT is a franchise that started in Flushing, Queens, in 2010. It specializes in Taiwan-style bubble tea and claims to be the largest bubble tea brand with over 350 locations across the U.S. “[a]s one of the OGs of bubble tea...”
Just curious – how much longer do we have to put up with businesses and menu items being labeled as the OG? For those not wishing to Google it, OG stands for original gangster and its provenance, you shouldn’t be surprised, is in gang culture. Cute, huh?
A tenant has been found for another vacant space, this one in downtown Orlando. Solita Tacos & Margaritas will move in to the former Wahlburgers on the corner of Church Street and Orange Avenue. Solita is from Xperience Restaurant Group, which also owns, among other brands, Chevys Fresh Mex. Wahlburgers, which opened in 2016, closed permanently in June 2020. Solita is coming this fall.
This episode of Compliments of the Chef could be titled Compliments of The Chef & I as Chris Rains, chef/owner of The Chef & I at Hall on the Yard in Ivanhoe Village, demonstrates his recipe for Wild Mushroom Risotto with Pan-seared Sea Scallops.
Risotto is labor intensive, but Rains gives some useful tips on making the rice dish. And he shows how to beautifully sear the scallops.
Watch the video below and then give the recipe a try.
JW Garden sprang up in April, the creation of landscape designer Lily Kwong. It’s an elevated garden with a stone pathway and benches for seating, planted with herbs and citrus – oranges, kumquats, tangerines and Meyer lemons – as well as vegetables and edible flowers.
It’s very much a kitchen garden, and Melissa Sallman, executive chef at Sear + Sea, the hotel’s very good steak and seafood restaurant, and chef de cuisine Jose Escanio are incorporating the hyper-locally sourced ingredients into their dishes and cocktails. (More on that in a moment.)
Here are the finalists for the 2022 Best Outdoor Dining Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants.
You may vote for one restaurant by ticking the box next to its name and then clicking the VOTE button.
After you vote, leave a comment below telling us WHO YOU VOTED FOR and why you think your choice should win. Be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in your comment – we can’t see who you voted for. Tell us what you like about the restaurant and its outdoor dining. We may use your comment if your choice is declared the winner.
This will be the second year for the Winter Flavors of New York journey. If you missed my recap of last year’s trip you can read about it here. I’m still amazed at everything we packed into those days. And I can’t wait to do it again.
We’ll do have some of the same experiences but add some new adventures, too. I’d love to have you join me and let me show you my favorite city in the world. New York is special any time of the year, but it’s magical in December.