Tutto Italia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tutto pour

If you plan to head out to Epcot for the Candlelight Processional, or just to see the holiday decorations, you might want to consider having dinner at Tutto Italia in the Italy pavilion to add a little buon Natale.

Since the folks at Patina Restaurant Group took over the food operations at the pavilion, adding Via Napoli pizzeria and Tutto Gusto wine bar, the quality of the food has gone up considerably, making it one of the better dining destinations in the park. Executive chef Renzo Barcatta has added some new items for the winter menu and I was recently invited to taste them.

Nikki's Place

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Nikkis stew room

Nikki's Place is back and everything is just as it was before.

Before meaning prior to the fire that forced the business to close in March 2015. After two and a half years -- and thanks in part to a $25,500 grant from the city -- the family owned restaurant is back serving its homestyle Southern and soul cuisine.

The menu is peppered with such things as Chitterlings, Ox Tails, Pig Tails (or the ears, if you prefer), Turkey Necks, and Pork Neck Bones. You'll also find less "exotic" Meat Loaf, Fried Pork Chops and Catfish.

Market on Magnolia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

MOM pizza room

Despite its name, Market on Magnolia isn't so much a market as it is a food court with a bar.

M.o.M., as it lovingly calls itself, occupies the former Frank & Steins beer and hot doggery at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and East Church Street, so not a huge space. Certainly not on the level of, say, Plant Street Market in Winter Garden. Or East End Market, for that matter.

As I said, a bar is the main focal point, occupying the far back wall. There are, of course, barstools for seating but there are also some high-top tables in front of the bar and essentially in the center of the entire space.

Jade Sushi & New Asian

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jade interior

I wanted Jade Sushi & New Asian to be better than it was. I expected it, in fact.

I had not been to this Edgewater Drive address since the restaurant was known as Jade Bistro and, in 2003, replaced a rather sketchy Chinese restaurant that I never had the courage to eat at. Jade Bistro, too, leaned more toward Chinese with its menu, though it did introduce sushi, which at the time was showing up on all types of Asian menus, even some non-Asian ones.

Jade Sushi & New Asian places the sushi more prominently, at least in the name. Sushi traditionalists might be disappointed in a dearth of classic rolls and a preponderance of items with cream cheese.

Cork & Fork

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Cork and Fork burger

I recently made a second visit to Cork & Fork, a restaurant in the Belle Isle neighborhood. I made my first visit there two years and three days earlier.

I didn’t write about it then because I found the restaurant, its food and its service to all be equally banal. (The name of the place, too, as long as I’m at it.) Also, it occupied a space that had not been known for keeping tenants very long. I figured it would slink off into obscurity without any help from me.

But it’s stayed on, which is more than Belle Isle Bayou was able to do, though it seems to me the owners of Cork & Fork didn’t feel any need to change the New Orleans centric decor of the previous occupant. So I figured it was time to stop in again and check the place out, to see what has kept it going.

Copacabana Cuban Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Copacabana tamal

Copacabana, a Cuban cafe from Mount Dora, has opened a second location in Altamonte Springs. It's a bright and spiffy spot with friendly service and decent food.

The Altamonte location opened only recently, and I have to wonder if the owners knew that the parking lot would be nearly nonexistent when they first planned the new place. The small strip mall, which also is home to longtime Indian restaurant Kohinoor and two breastaurants, Twin Peaks and the Winghouse, is undergoing some sort of construction on the central parking lot. People who wished to eat at Copacabana had to hunt for parking along the sides and hike to the restaurant.

It should be testament to the quality of the restaurant that many people did just that. Copa was doing brisk business when I stopped in recently for lunch.

K Restaurant & Wine Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Krestaurant interior

There's always a bit of trepidation whenever a major change occurs at a popular restaurant. At K Restaurant & Wine Bar, of course, the change was a transfer of ownership from founding proprietor and chef Kevin Fonzo to Chad Phelps, a longtime chef with mainly institutional experience. (His resume includes 21 years as a chef in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine, which probably prepared him for the cramped confines of the K kitchen.)

Fonzo seemed inextricably attached to the popular College Park restaurant; after all, it's his initial that gives the restaurant its name. And the James Beard Award-nominated chef has been a charismatic and visible promoter of the restaurant, regarded as one of the area's top chefs. Surely things would not be the same without Kevin at K.

Kevin who?

Buttermilk Bakery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Buttermilk ext

I stopped by Buttermilk Bakery on a recent Saturday and found it bustling with people patiently waiting in a line that snaked through the shop.

Of course, we’re not talking about a big shop, so the snake would be more like a large garter than, say, an anaconda. Or maybe more like a racer because the line moved pretty fast.

Buttermilk pastries

A little too fast. You can’t really make your decision about what to get until you’re right up to the glass that separates the drooling public from the tempting array of freshly baked goods.

Orange County Brewers

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Orange County Brewers tanks

The chrome bumpers of Fiats have given way to stainless steel brewing tanks at the corner of Orange Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Orlando.

The storefront space is the new home of Orange County Brewers, which is not affiliated with any government entity. OCB is the latest entry in the burgeoning microbrewery sector.

I'm always impressed by the major hardware involved with setting up an operation like this. The OC's main tanks can be seen from an open garage door (apparently left from the previous tenant) in the back parking lot.

There are also tanks to be seen through the darkened windows behind the many taps behind the bar. Also in view there: kitchen racks and boxes, and jars of hops, all of it rather unkempt looking, but hey, it's a brewery.

It's also a pizzeria. Or I should say, a pizzeria also occupies the space. The food is done by Orlando Pizza & Wing Company, which is not owned by the same people as Orange County Brewers, apparently, as I found out on a recent visit.

Fig's Prime

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Figs int

I don't know if it's Figs or Fig's. I just know that the word Prime is also part of the name of this splashy, contemporary new restaurant in Altamonte Springs.

The restaurant's logo has a leaf -- let's assume it's a fig leaf -- where an apostrophe would be if the name is meant to be Fig's. This would be a rare case of a fig leaf revealing something rather than obscuring. But in postings on its Facebook page the restaurant refers to itself as Figs Prime, indicating more than one fig is involved. So I'm confused.

You probably think this is all just a niggle, but it's part of my job to pay attention to details. And if the people behind, um, FP paid more attention to that and other details, this could become a major player among restaurants in north Orlando.