Antonio's on Sand Lake Road Closes After 10 Years; Efes Turkish Also Shuttered

Written by Scott Joseph on .

After 10 years on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, Antonio’s has closed. Owner Greg Gentile says he closed the restaurant two-weeks ago when his lease expired.

Antonio’s Sand Lake was a third location for the Antonio’s brand, which includes the flagship restaurant and deli, Antonio’s La Fiamma, in Maitland and Cafe d’Antonio in Celebration. Gentile said when he first opened on Sand Lake, the restaurant was very popular with both locals and visitors, drawing big crowds of conventioneers, sometimes doing $80,000 to $90,000 in just three days. Most restaurants would be happy to do that much in a month. “That’s not happening anymore,” he said. With the strained economy, the convention business is not as lucrative these days. Plus, he said, the proliferation of restaurants along Sand Lake Road has increased the competition, especially since the opening of the Dellagio complex.

Plan to Attend Latin Food & Wine Festival

Written by Scott Joseph on .

LFWF_copyI’m honored to once again serve as emcee for the opening event of the Latin Food & Wine Festival, Savor the Night. And again this year, it will be held at the Stirling Global Gallery on the top floor of the Plaza overlooking downtown Orlando. This was a terrific event last year, with lots of good Latin food, music by DJ Memo and live performances, wines and cocktails on the wraparound terrace. It’s one of the best views in town, and this is one exciting event.

The bad news is that Savor the Night is sold out. But the Saturday event, the Grand Tasting, still has tickets available. This year the LFWF is taking over Cranes Roost Park in Uptown Altamonte. And here’s the better news: admission is free. You pay only for the food and drinks you want to enjoy. No charge for the great music and cooking demonstrations.

The Grand Tasting kicks off Saturday, Oct. 15, from 4 to 10 p.m. Cranes Roost Park is at 274 Cranes Roost Blvd., Altamonte Springs, off of Altamonte Boulevard, just east of Interstate 4. Parking is free, too.

If you’ve already got your tickets to Savor the Night, I’ll see you Friday, Oct. 14, high above Orlando; be sure to say hello. If not, then plan on coming out on the 15th for the Grand Tasting. Here's a link to the Latin Food & Wine Festival website for more information.

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16th Epcot International Food and Wine Kicks Off with Improved First Bites Opening Reception

Written by Scott Joseph on .

cranberry_bogReady, set eat! And drink. And walk. And learn. And spend. A lot.

The 16th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival officially kicks off today. However, for the second year, it got revved up early with the First Bites Opening Reception Thursday evening. Held in the spacious Festival Welcome Center, First Bites is a chance for die-hard festival fans to get a taste of some of the food and beverages available at the various country kiosks, and to see some cooking demonstrations up close and participate in a wine tasting or two.

Last year, the first First Bites, um, bit. The circular space wasn’t utilized properly and everything was too spread out. And, frankly, the quality just wasn’t what it should have been. Certainly not for the cost, which last year had a suggested retail price of $195. Plus tax. Plus admission to the park. Plus parking. (Many of last year’s attendees bought tickets for $100, but one commented to me that he didn’t think it was worth even $50.)

This year the reception was much better. Things seemed to be more suitably spaced and paced. It is not a crowded event, whether by design or because of the cost of the ticket ($175+++ this year; I attended on a media pass). So there were few long lines to sample the food and beverages that were offered this year.

What's Italian? Quality of the Cuisine has Improved Over Time

Written by Scott Joseph on .

In this week's WMFE-FM segment, Scott talks with 90.7's Judith Smelser about the state of Italian restaurants in Central Florida. You can hear the segment at WMFE-FM/dining.

There was a rumor going around in the early days of my restaurant reviewing career that I did not like Italian restaurants. The rumor may have gotten started because nearly every review of an Italian restaurant I did in those days was ultimately a negative one. But that didn’t mean I didn’t like Italian restaurants; what I didn’t like were the places that were dumping tomato sauce on top of pasta and proclaiming, “That’s Italian!”

That’s not Italian, but that’s what was being foisted on the local dining public. It didn’t help that a major restaurant company based in Orlando was serving its own brand of so-called Italian food that wasn’t any more authentic than the others.

But then things started to change. Some restaurateurs who knew Italian cuisine started dishing up the real thing and educating diners that Italian food didn’t necessarily mean red sauce, and it almost never meant heavy doses of garlic. We now have a wonderful array of authentic Italian restaurants that serve everything from the creamier style sauces of Northern Italy to the seafood specialties of the Ligurian coast to, yes, the tomato sauces of the south. Here are some of my favorites.