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Ilpesca ext

As coincidence would have it, I first reviewed Il Pescatore, the family homey Italian restaurant on Primrose Drive, exactly 20 years ago this week. And now that it has reached that milestone, it can be declared an Orlando Classic.

It was Marie and Stefano LaComarre who purchased what was Sorrento’s Italian and renamed it Il Pescatore, or the fisherman. It was never meant to be a seafood restaurant, and in fact seafood was never its forte. The name was merely an homage to Stefano’s childhood on the waters of his native Sicily.

(The LaComarre’s, of course, eventually sold Il Pescatore and opened Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs, which they also sold and which still thrives today under the ownership of Alejandro Martinez. Lacomarre now cooks at his son’s Altamonte Springs restaurant, Nonno’s.)

Lacomarre’s influence is still seen on Il Pescatore’s menu today – I wonder how many menus in the area feature Tortellini di Stefano? But it reads, as it always has, as a stereotypical Italian American menu that you might find in any red-and-white checker-clothed trattoria. (It did, in fact, have such tablecloths in ’91 but they no longer drape the tables today.) But with an occasional surprise.

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Palma Maria exterior

Palma Maria, the longtime family operated Italian restaurant in Casselberry, is closing permanently.

The restaurant had closed Jan. 4 following the death of its owner and operator Peter Rosinola Jr. In a post Monday afternoon on the Palma Maria Facebook page, the family announced that it would not reopen. Besides the loss of Rosinola, the hardships that Covid-19 has visited on businesses, especially restaurants, was another reason, according to sources familiar with the business.

Palma Maria – named for the family's grandmother – was one of the area's older restaurants. I first reviewed it in 1991 when it was already an established favorite among locals. It gained renown for baking its own bread and presenting each table with a whole loaf to enjoy with the meal and bagging up any bread that was left to take home.

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Mporte

Here’s a dandy idea.

One of the downfalls of the rise in takeout is the regrettable single-use foam and plastic containers in which the food is packaged. The containers are convenient, relatively cheap, easy to use, and potentially an ecological disaster.

So that’s why I like this product from M’Porte, a San Diego company. It’s marketing reusable to-go containers that customers purchase and then exchange with their next order.

Restaurants participating in the M’Porte exchange program will take a customer’s container – rinsed of any food residue – and exchange it for a cleaned and sanitized one filled with more delicious and guilt-free food. Well, at least free of guilt from trashing the environment.

And my understanding of the program is that the container isn’t tied to just one restaurant but can be exchanged at any participating eatery. And, the restaurants take 25 cents off the order, which sounds like sort of a big whoop kind of deal but those quarters can eventually add up.

The containers are leak proof and made of food grade stainless steel. They can hold up to 50 ounces of food and can be placed in the over to reheat the takeout (if you remove the silicone seal that makes it leak proof).

Currently, only a handful of restaurants in Del Mar and Encinitas are participating in the exchange program. But it sure would be nice to see it expand to Central Florida.

What do you think – would you participate in a reusable takeout container exchange program?

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South Orange Provisions render

The capacious atrium of what was formerly SunTrust Tower in downtown Orlando will be the home of South Orange Provisions, a nine-vendor food hall set to open later this year. SunTrust has moved a block away to Garland Avenue in the newly constructed tower with a hotel on its upper floors. (I wonder: Did SunTrust even bother to rent a U-Haul or did they just push everything over to the new building on their rolling desk chairs?)

As first reported by Mark Baratelli of The Daily City, the food hall will have 10,000 square feet with dining inside and outside in a shaded park. A brochure for the project touts its “Main and Main” location, which is to say it is at Orange Avenue and Church Street. (The brochure also says the project will open in third quarter of 2020, but we’re not going to hold them to that.)

This is a big space to fill, not just horizontally but vertically, too – the atrium soars eight stories. And it held one of my favorite pieces of public art in Orlando: A sculpture by George Segal of two flying trapeze artists in Segal’s signature white plaster style. It was stunning – one figure hanging on the trapeze by his knees about to catch another in midair – and it was so high up that most people probably didn’t even know it was there. I’ve asked the real estate firm overseeing the project what has become of the art but haven’t heard back.

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EddieVs exterior

I love all the mom and pop restaurants, the little eateries serving sandwiches, barbecue, comfort foods and myriad cuisines of other countries and cultures.

But sometimes you want something a little more upscale, a special occasion splurge. So the other day I said to my Covid companion, “Let’s do Eddie V’s tonight.” It was a welcomed suggestion.

Eddie V’s, of course, is the upscale Darden brand on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row specializing in seafood. Fish is a tough thing to do for off-premises dining, but if anyone could pull it off I was sure Eddie V’s could.