The space vacated so long ago by J. Alexander’s on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row appears to be set to welcome a new tenant, North Italia, a concept owned by the Cheesecake Factory.
That doesn’t sound promising unless you know that North Italia was originally developed by Fox Restaurant Concepts, a Phoenix group known for its high quality restaurants like Culinary Dropout and the Arrogant Butcher. (OK, neither of those sound very promising, either, but trust me they’re quite good.)
Cheesecake Factory acquired North Italia and FRC in October of 2019 for over $300 million. The company had previously invested moe than $88 million dollars in North Italia and another FRC concept, Flower Child, over the previous three years in anticipation of the acquisition.
North Italia currently has 26 locations in 12 states and the District of Columbia, including two in South Florida: Miami and a recently opened restaurant in Dadeland.
According to a press release that announced the 2019 acquisition: “North Italia turns a modern lens on Italian cooking in the upscale, casual-dining segment. All dishes are handmade from scratch daily.” The Miami menu features a section of small plates with such dishes as burrata de stagione, Italian meatballs and Sicilian short rib ragy, and larger items like pizzas pastas and entrees, including bolognese (listed as a house specialty) and squid ink mafaldine.
J. Alexander’s was a Houston’s/Hillstone-like restaurant that opened in the then-new Rialto strip on Sand Lake Road in 2008. It closed in 2013 as, supposedly, the poorest performing location of the chain’s location.
North Italia’s neighbors will include Ocean Prime, American Social and Bento.
North Italia operates out of Cheesecake Factory’s headquarters in Calabasas Hills, Calif. FRC remains an independent subsidiary of CF and maintains its offices on Camelback Road in Phoenix.
Calls to North Italia’s headquarters regarding timing for the Orlando opening were not immediately returned.