EXCLUSIVE -- Is downtown Disney big enough for two Cirques?
A deal is currently in the works to bring the restaurant brands Le Cirque and Circo to Central Florida. Le Cirque would be intended for the collection of nationally known restaurants that are planned for Disney Springs at Downtown Disney. As it stands now, there are no available spaces for Le Cirque to occupy, but the officials at Disney are very interested in having it join Morimoto Asia, the Boathouse, STK and others that will surely make the waterfront complex currently under construction a dining destination for tourists and locals alike.
Circo is much closer to becoming a reality, and much closer to downtown Orlando. Negotiations are underway for it to take over the former Mingos space in the Sanctuary condominiums. According to Paul Ardaji, an independent businessman who is working with representatives of Le Cirque and Circo to put the deal together, the group would also take over the space next door, which was most recently Nick's Italian Kitchen, and develop a fast-casual French and Italian bistro. "I don't want to make it sound like it's a done deal," Ardaji told me. "We are moving forward."
Le Cirque, of course, is the legendary restaurant developed by renowned restaurateur Sirio Maccioni that has been a fine dining destination for Manhattanites for decades (albeit in various locations). While Le Cirque (say Seerk) leans slightly more French, Circo (CHEER-koh) is decidedly Italian.
Ardaji said that the Le Cirque at Disney Springs, if it goes forward, will be more of a bistro/brasserie concept with a lower price point than that of the ultra fine restaurant in New York. This won't be new — there currently exists a Le Cirque Cafe next door to the flagship Le Cirque New York on East 58th Street. The family and company also own and operate other variations around the world.
Circo was originally developed as a concept for Sirio Maccioni's sons, Mario, Marco and Mauro, and originally opened at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where I first experienced it. There is now one in New York, on West 55th Street. And as the elder Maccioni, who was known for his presence in the restaurant, becomes less involved due to his age, the sons are now the family representatives for all the restaurants. Another Circo was recently opened in Abu Dhabi.
Having Circo join the downtown dining scene would be a significant step toward raising the area's culinary cred. It's one thing to have well-known chefs and restaurant brands set up shop in the tourist areas, but putting one downtown further shows that we have a dining public that appreciates fine food.
There is no timing on either restaurant, although Ardaji said that they are very close to finalizing terms to take over the space at the Sanctuary. Finding a space at Disney Springs, where most of the plans have already been drawn and have intended tenants, will be more problematic. You'd think they'd be able to find some space inside the Cirque du Soleil tent. That would be perfect.