Joe Liguori, who started the Pizzeria Valdiano concept in Winter Park Village 16 years ago, is returning to that complex to open a new concept.
Liguori has taken over Firefly Kitchen and Bar (it was Taps before that) and will rebrand it The Hangry Bison, featuring craft cocktails, craft beer and build your own burgers. The restaurant will stay open as Firefly for a short time then close for a remodel. Liguori said he is hoping to have the new place up and running at the beginning of June.
This will be a change in concepts for Liguori, 40, who literally grew up in Italian restaurants. Name one of the old-time Italian restaurants in the area and you'll probably find that a member of Liguori's family owned it.
His parents had Michael's Restaurant & Pizza at 12309 E. Colonial Drive (now Tamarind's Indian) and Peppino's Ristorante Italiano in Oviedo. "I was always working as a child," Liguori said in a phone conversation Wednesday. He bused tables at Michael's when he was 11 and was making pizzas when he was 13. "I always enjoyed the kitchen because it was less formal," he told me, "but I was there to work, not to play."
Liguori's uncle and aunt are Louie and Maria Palo, who owned Amalfi, Carnevale d'Amalfi and Louie & Maria's Italian Restaurant. Liguori sold them his Pizzeria Valdiano and for the past four years has been focusing on a restaurant in the Villages called Ricciardi's Italian Table.
The Hangry Bison -- the name is a reference to a phenomenon that occurs when someone's mood sours because of hunger -- will put Liguori essentially across the street from his first Pizzeria Valdiano.