Vincent and Teri Gagliano held a celebration Tuesday evening to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their restaurant, Chez Vincent. The evening began with a reception in Hannibal's, the bar and lounge next to the restaurant, and followed with a seated dinner for the invited guests with tables in both venues.
I stopped in just for the reception and was greeted by the Gaglianos, both of them beaming and welcoming the regulars who helped keep them going so they could celebrate the twentieth in style.
I first reviewed Chez Vincent in the Sept. 21, 1997, edition of the Orlando Sentinel's Florida magazine. I did a second review in Oct. of 2005 in which I wrote that when I had done the first review, "I remember thinking that it couldn’t possibly survive."
But it did -- which is more than could be said for Florida magazine; it had been killed off long before. And now another 12 years, to boot.
Tuesday evening, Gagliano reminisced that when he first opened, there were few other businesses in Hannibal Square, which at the time had been designated the West End. And it was a tough sell to people who preferred the tony confines of Park Avenue or the promise of new dining options at the about-to-open Winter Park Village.
But good food (almost) always survives.
Before I said goodbye for the evening, apologizing for my jet-lag-induced stupor, I asked Gagliano if he still had the Eiffel Tower decanter that had been there since the beginning. At the end of the meal, Gagliano would come out of the kitchen to pour a bit of sherry for the guests.
I looked around for it and didn't see it, so I figured it had either been broken or relegated to a shelf in a back room, deemed too kitschy for the Winter Park crowd.
But he just smiled and reached out to a service station, and there it was. "I always have it," he said.
It's touches like that, along with good food and service, that make 20th anniversaries possible.