Let's Talk About Masks in Restaurants

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Shakers masks

A version of this article first appeared in the bulletin of the Central Florida Tourism Collective.

Nearly 30 years ago, I had front-row seats to “Angels in America” on Broadway. It was a moving performance, and out of the nearly to a hundred shows I’ve seen in New York, one of the most memorable.

But I’m remembering it for something other than the stellar writing and superior acting these days. From my up-close vantage I could see that when the actors spoke, a spray of aerosolized spit emanated from their mouths, enhanced and made more noticeable by the overhead lights. I remember thinking that the actors must be drenched by the end of the play (and those of us in the front row were in the splash zone, too, especially when Ron Leibman as Roy Cohn was nearby).

Actors, of course, project their voices so to be heard in the back row of the balcony, which undoubtedly increases the amount of spray. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re on stage or speaking up in a crowded room: When we speak, we spew.

So then, let’s talk about wearing face masks in restaurants.

Central Florida Spoleto Italian Kitchens Appear to be Closed

Written by Scott Joseph on .

spoleto exterior

Spoleto Italian Kitchen, the South American-born chain of quick-serve restaurants, may have closed all of its Central Florida locations. Phones are disconnected and the company’s website address leads to a page with an error message. Its South American website is still up, albeit in Portuguese.

The chain – originally known as Spoleto – My Italian Kitchen – was started in 1999 in Rio de Janeiro and opened its first restaurant in the United States in Orlando in 2015 on University Boulevard. It was an assemblage concept that had the customer choose the type of pasta, sauces and other ingredients to be added to a bowl by a staff member behind the line. It was reviewed hereon April 8, 2015.

Three other locations opened in Central Florida, including in Winter Park, Windermere and inside Florida Mall. Although there are news accounts that the company planned to open more restaurants in the United States, including six in the San Diego region, there is no remaining evidence that those restaurants opened.

There are more than 350 Spoleto Italian Kitchens in Brazil, which has the largest population of Italians outside of Italy.

According to his Linkedin profile, John Velasquez, who brought the Spoleto brand to the U.S., left the company in December.

Attempts to reach members of the management staff Tuesday were not successful.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar Closes at Pointe Orlando, Only Florida Location

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hopdoddy ext

Hopdoddy, the Austin-based burger bar, has permanently closed its restaurant at Pointe Orlando. It had taken over the space that was previously occupied by Funky Monkey in February of 2019. It was the Texas company’s first and only Florida location.

A statement on the Orlando Hopdoddy Facebook page Monday blamed the pandemic.

“We are bummed to share we’ve made the tough decision to permanently close our home in Orlando, something we’ve never done before.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make, but we do it with hope to strengthen our ability to navigate forward after COVID-19.”

The company also closed a location in Memphis and one in Southlake, Tex. There are approximately 30 remaining Hopdoddies, mainly in Texas, where there are 21, with the rest in Arizona, California, Colorado and Tennessee.

Ron James Join's Tornatore's as Pastry Chef

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tornatore trio

Following the permanent closing of his award-winning College Park bakery, Sugarbuzz Dezert Company, Ron James has accepted the position of pastry chef at nearby Tornatore’s Cafe & Pizzeria. James joins owner Denny Tornatore and executive chef Jason Wolfe in the operation as it expands to offer an Italian market next door to the restaurant.

“I met Ron about 8 years ago at a farmers market and absolutely fell in love with his desserts and started selling some of them at my restaurant,” Tornatore said in an email. “I was saddened to hear the news of Sugarbuzz closing and that’s when I made him the offer to join our team at Tornatore’s to elevate our dessert game to the next level.”

“I have been making cheesecake for Denny for eight years,” James said by phone Monday. He said that when he told Tornatore that he was closing his bakery and going out of busienss, Tornatore said, “No you’re not; you’re coming to work for me.”