The Reason Restaurants are So Loud

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Science has finally solved the question regarding why restaurants are so loud. For years it was conjectured that restaurants turned up the music and removed noise absorbers to create a sense of conviviality and fun. Anyone walking into a loud restaurant, it was believed, was likely to think that everyone there was having a good time, and therefore it must be a great restaurant. Now this article from Scientific American (I told you it was about science) has the real answer: restaurants are noisy so you won't be able to taste the food! Shhhh, don't tell anyone. I SAID, DON'T TELL ANYONE.

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Johnson's Diner Closes

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Johnson’s Diner, the iconic southern soul food restaurant that attracted politicians and professional athletes, has closed. Orlando Sentinel reporter Sandra Pedicini wrote about the closing in an online post today. The restaurant has had financial woes in the years since it moved from a cramped, low occupancy space near the old Orlando arena to a newer, larger building near where the new arena just opened. In 2008, owner Clarence Taylor III ran into trouble with the Florida Department of Revenue for nonpayment of sales taxes. The closing comes after the Church Street building’s owner began eviction procedures for nonpayment of rent.

It’s odd that the restaurant was unable to continue and pay its bills at a time when other restaurants on Church Street are praising the opening of the arena as the beginning of a new era of prosperity. According to the story, the construction of the arena hindered traffic to the restaurant, which resulted in decreased revenues. But one has to wonder, when considering the past financial trouble, if it’s just a case of substandard business acumen.

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Antonio's La Fiamma Adding Bar/Balcony Space

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Following the news that one local Italian restaurant, Bergamo’s, has closed after 20 years comes news that another is celebrating its double decade mark with an expansion. And it’s one that the naysayers were surmising wouldn’t make it to its first anniversary because it started too expansive.

Antonio’s La Fiamma is undergoing construction that will increase the size of the upstairs bar area and add a balcony overlooking Lake Lilly. When it opened, in 1990, industry insiders were whispering about the folly of owner Greg Gentile. Gentile had taken a one-story steakhouse and added a second level, an expensive renovation that most said could not be profitable unless the restaurant was always full. Everyone thought Gentile was nuts. The downstairs became a market and deli and the upstairs was a full-service Italian restaurant. The fact that it had something for everyone meant that more people were likely to dine there, whether they wanted something casual or a more formal meal. The restaurant was always full. And Gentile also instituted a policy that allowed folks eating in the deli area to purchase a bottle of wine from the market and enjoy it with no corkage fee. He sold a lot of wine.

And he showed the naysayers a thing or two. Success is always a satisfying revenge.

So then, about the addition...how many seats will he add? Zero. That’s right, he’s going to the trouble and expense to add a balcony with no net gain in seating, also known in the business as how you make money. Gentile’s response: “We’re just going to make the seats we’ve already got better.”

I’d say the man is nuts, but I know better.

Gentile hopes to have the new space open the first week of December.

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Bergamo's Closes After Serving and Serenading Patrons for 20 Years

Written by Scott Joseph on .

The fat lady has sung for Bergamo’s.

The Italian restaurant that for two decades entertained tourists in the International Drive corridor has closed. Darren Shepherd, general manager of Festival Bay Mall, confirmed that the restaurant closed two weeks ago and “it doesn’t look like they’ll reopen.”

Bergamo’s, which featured waiters who would take turns at the piano in “center stage” of the restaurant to sing everything from opera to Broadway show tunes, moved to the Festival Bay Mall in 2007 after its original location in the Mercado shopping complex farther down I-Drive, where it had been since 1990, was slated for demolition. Bergamo’s offered a unique entertainment opportunity: to enjoy an Italian dinner and be serenaded by talented singers, some classically trained and supplementing income while striving for a stage career.

Several Bergamo’s alumni have gone on to work in musical theater. Malena Mesa, who worked at Bergamo’s in the past, said she is still in touch with several former co-workers who now work in opera and theater. Kristin Chavez, a mezzo-soprano, works primarily with overseas opera companies, and Kristin Patterson, another mezzo-soprano, lives in New York but travels throughout the U.S. to perform. Wren Harrington went from serving pasta and singing at Bergamo’s to play Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

For me, Bergamo’s was more about the entertainment than about the food. But in my 2007 review, after the move, I found the food had improved greatly, and the new venue, a grandiloquent rotunda, was the perfect venue. A restaurant like Bergamo's was just the sort of thing tourists look for in Orlando.

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