Former J. Alexander's Restaurant Row space finally to get new tenant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

North Italia logo

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.

Newsy Nuggets: Tornatore's at 12, a smokin' new sandwich shop, a free donut and other stuff

Written by Scott Joseph on .

tornatores ext

Congratulations to Tornatore’s Pizzeria and Cafe. The popular College Park restaurant, which also recently opened an Italian market next door, is celebrating its 12th anniversary this weekend. The Dodici Party will be Saturday and Sunday and guests who spend at least $40 dining in will get a complimentary take-home meal from the market. I’m going to stop by and I plan to stock up on several of the takeout dinners because, as I wrote in a review when the market opened, they’re pretty damn good. Reservations are required. Call 407-292-2248.

A franchise described as a “marijuana-themed sandwich” restaurant will open Monday in east Orlando near UCF (go figure). It’s called Cheba Hut, because Toasted was taken. Orlandoan Tim Brashear is the franchisee along with his future in-laws Jean and Bill McCarthy. There is no pot in the food, mind you; the menu is inspired by the sorts of foods one might crave after indulging. Oddly, hash is not on the menu, but you’ll find sandwiches called Dank, Pacific Blue and Kush among others. I have to admit I don’t know the significance of the name Cheba Hut. But hey, the Estefans aren’t using the name Bongos anymore; maybe that would be better. You’ll find the new joint at 12100 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. Stop in and have a discussion about the existentialism of sandwich making.

Restaurants serving Easter Sunday specials

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Easter Eggs

Our Holiday Dining list has an array of restaurants that will be open and serving on Easter Sunday, April 4. You’ll find a range of options, from a brunch with a lamb-carving station and fresh raw bar at the Unreserved Food Bazaar and a Sunday dinner at Sear + Sea Woodfire Grill, both at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek to the perennially popular brunch buffet at Tap Room at Dubsdread.

And if you’re still not ready to dine on site, you’ll find options for full dinners you can preorder for pickup to take home and enjoy.

The list is updated as new information comes in, so be sure to check back often.

Swan and Dolphin offering a spring Food & Wine Classic April 17

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Spring Food and Wine Classic

The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin will offer a springtime version of its fall Food & Wine Classic, Sat., April 17, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The event will feature 12 food booths and more than 50 beverage options. Among the themed stations will be the Beer Garden; Chinatown; Frida’s Kitchen; and the Pig & Poke, a luau experience. And there will be a dessert station with the resort’s executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, a world pastry champion.

And of course there will be samples from the many Swan and Dolphin restaurants, including Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s bluezoo, Kimonos and Il Mulino.

In addition, attendees will get a taste of a signature dish from the soon-to-open Swan Reserve, a boutique hotel expansion to the complex.

This is an outdoor event and distancing protocols will be observed. To wit, only a limited number of tickets will be available. (Fifty remain as of this writing.)

General admission is $125 and unlike last fall’s Classic, the spring festival does not require that you book a room. However, room packages are available starting at $400, which includes two tickets, so I’d jump on that. For just $150 more you can have an extra cocktail or glass of wine and know that you only have to operate the elevator to get to your room.

Click here to book Food & Wine Classic tickets, and for room reservations, call 800-227-1500.