Newsy Nuggets: Stefano's out for the 4th, too much Covid closes Too Much Sauce, Mason Jar looks for provisional location, and more

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Stefanos dining room

You’re going to need to get your fix of Tortellini de Stefano or Vitello alla Bolognese before Friday or be prepared to wait until next Tuesday because popular restaurant Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs is taking the Fourth of July weekend off. Owner F. Alejandro Martinez posted that he was closing for a few days to allow his staff to enjoy the holiday weekend with their families. He noted that one year ago he made the decision to close on Sundays and noticed a significant change in morale. “No only we, as a team, are more happy,” he wrote, “but we can devinitely agree that the execution of the daily activities are much more enjoyable and fun!” This will be the first time in eight years Stefano’s has taken a whole-restaurant vacation.

The closing of Too Much Sauce Kitchen, an assemblage restaurant in Mills 50, is effective “immediately and permanently,” according to owner Evan Dimov. The restaurant had recently closed June 19 because staff members, including Dimov’s wife, had tested positive for Covid-19 or were otherwise ill. It reopened the 23d. Sunday, Dimov made the decision to close permanently, due in part to not being able to come to terms with the Mills Park landlord to renew the lease. Speaking by phone Monday, Dimov said those issues and “inflation going through the roof” added to his decision to close the five-year-old business even though three months remained on the lease. The landlord may have been accommodating to that notion because a replacement tenant has already been signed up. Stay tuned.

The closing of Mason Jar Provisions, the Thornton Park “Southern-inspired” eatery, which occurred Sunday, is meant to be more temporary for the concept but permanent for the location, which was next door to – and accessible by – Burton’s Bar. A social media posts by MJP, which opened mid-pandemic two years ago, said that it would be back “bigger and better very soon.”

Just how many restaurants and bars closed because of the pandemic? According to the National Restaurant Association and an article in the Washington Post, it’s hard to say. But just about everyone agrees that the number is far lower than most people expected it to be. A survey by NRA estimated that just before the pandemic there were 660,000 food service and drinking places. Using survey responses from about 6,000 restaurant operators, the NRA estimated in Dec. 2020 that 110,000 businesses had closed permanently or temporarily. It amended its estimate in April 2021 to 90,000. Nowhere near the 75 percent many industry insiders had feared. (The government assistance is credited with helping to keep more businesses open.) Although the pandemic is still a factor – see reference to Too Much Sauce above – the NRA is no longer tracking closures because many of the usual causes – bad location, poor operations, lousy food – are contributing to restaurants closing again, just like the good old days.

The country is facing a shortage of sriracha, the spicy condiment usually offered in big red bottles with a green squirt cap. An article in the New York Times called it an “unprecedented shortage,” which I would agree with if the same thing hadn’t occurred in 2013. This time the shortage is due to a lousy pepper crop from unfavorable weather conditions. So climae change just got real for fans of spicy foods. Anyway, we survived the great sriracha shortage of ’13. We’ll get through this one, too. It’s not like it’s toilet paper.

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