What the Chuck

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Whatthechuck kitchen

Just under the name What the Chuck and its big orange W logo (which was vaguely reminiscent of Whataburger’s) it says “A burger joint.” That pretty much sums it up.

Well, not entirely. I suppose you should also know that the burgers this joint offers are of the smash genre, wherein the patty is pressed down during grilling and flattened somewhat instead of being a thick and juicy hunk of ground beef oozing with red juices. Smashed burgers cannot be ordered, say, medium-rare because as soon as they’re smashed they’re pretty much beyond that point. Which is not to say such burgers can’t also be satisfying. You should just know before you go.

Il Pescatore

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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As coincidence would have it, I first reviewed Il Pescatore, the family homey Italian restaurant on Primrose Drive, exactly 20 years ago this week. And now that it has reached that milestone, it can be declared an Orlando Classic.

It was Marie and Stefano LaComarre who purchased what was Sorrento’s Italian and renamed it Il Pescatore, or the fisherman. It was never meant to be a seafood restaurant, and in fact seafood was never its forte. The name was merely an homage to Stefano’s childhood on the waters of his native Sicily.

(The LaComarre’s, of course, eventually sold Il Pescatore and opened Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs, which they also sold and which still thrives today under the ownership of Alejandro Martinez. Lacomarre now cooks at his son’s Altamonte Springs restaurant, Nonno’s.)

Lacomarre’s influence is still seen on Il Pescatore’s menu today – I wonder how many menus in the area feature Tortellini di Stefano? But it reads, as it always has, as a stereotypical Italian American menu that you might find in any red-and-white checker-clothed trattoria. (It did, in fact, have such tablecloths in ’91 but they no longer drape the tables today.) But with an occasional surprise.

Eddie V's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

EddieVs exterior

I love all the mom and pop restaurants, the little eateries serving sandwiches, barbecue, comfort foods and myriad cuisines of other countries and cultures.

But sometimes you want something a little more upscale, a special occasion splurge. So the other day I said to my Covid companion, “Let’s do Eddie V’s tonight.” It was a welcomed suggestion.

Eddie V’s, of course, is the upscale Darden brand on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row specializing in seafood. Fish is a tough thing to do for off-premises dining, but if anyone could pull it off I was sure Eddie V’s could.

Greek To Go

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Greektogo exterior

A restaurant with a name like Greek To Go should be uniquely suited to serving during these times of takeout and delivery. That’s what initially attracted me to the little Maitland eatery recently.

And I was drawn in by the menu of Mediterranean specialties like moussaka, falafel and of course Philly cheesesteak. Hmmm, OK.

I was also delighted that the restaurant had a user-friendly ordering portal in its website. (The link is only on the front page so if you go right to the menu link you’ll miss the online ordering link.)

And it also allows ine to order in advance, add a tip and pay for the whole shebang right there. (Shebang is a Greek word, right?) I’ll often order for a pickup time later, but since was driving from downtown Orlando, I accepted the quoted time of 20 minutes for an immediate fetch and pulled into the small parking lot just 30 minutes after the order went through. Twenty minutes after that I left with my food. Oh well.

V.L.C. Vegan Eatery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

VLC exterior

Have you heard about Dryuary? It’s where people pledge to go alcohol free – or stay dry – for the month of January. I’m sure that January was selected because it’s after the holidays when so many people tend to overindulge, but personally I think February would be a better choice because, you know, it’s shorter.

Now some people are pushing Veganuary, which means to follow a vegan diet for the first month of the year. Is there a meatless equivalent to dry? Vegged, maybe?

Anyway, if you’re among the carnivorous community attempting to eat a more plant-based diet, whether for a month or just a day, you might want to check out V.L.C. Vegan Eatery, a small restaurant on the east side of Orlando that recently celebrated its first anniversary.

Kabooki Sushi

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Kabooki exterior

Kabooki Sushi and its owner, Henry Moso, seem to have done just fine over the past year. First, a second location of the popular restaurant opened in Bayhill Plaza in the Restaurant Row district. Then Moso was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. And then, Kabooki’s original location, in an odd spot on Colonial Drive near Maguire Boulevard, was renovated and enlarged.

Unfortunately, Moso did not advance to the Beard Award’s finals – and the awards ended up being cancelled altogether anyway. And since the Rising Star award is for chefs under 30, Moso has now aged out.

But he will undoubtedly have more awards in his future – Kabooki has already won a platinum Foodster Award for Best Sushi.

Meatball Stoppe

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This is the first time I’ve reviewed the Meatball Stoppe. I did, however, review a place called the Meatball Shoppe when it first opened nearly six years ago in, not so coincidentally, the same location.

They are, of course, the same business owned by the same people, Isabella and Jeff Morgia, the whole time. What happened, I’m guessing, is that someone else who owned the rights to the name Meatball Shoppe found out about the new Orlando restaurant and had a lawyer send one of those cheery little letters telling the Morgias to stop. So Stoppe they did.

Over the years, the restaurant has gotten more appreciated attention, including being featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, though it really isn’t any of those.

One thing seems to have changed since my review in January 2015: The original assemblage concept has been eased a bit. You no longer have to pick one from column A and one from column B. But the quality of the food has remained the same, which is quite good.

La Campana Mexican Restaurant

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I don’t know why – maybe it’s the years I spent in the Southwest prior to moving to Orlando – but I crave Mexican or Tex-Mex food this time of year. So I figured I’d indulge myself by visiting La Campana Mexican Restaurant, which opened on Lee Road a year and a half ago.

And it all would have been first rate if not for the chicharrones in guacamole. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Tornatore's Italian Market

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tornatore Market ext

The long-anticipated Italian market next door to Tornatore’s Cafe & Pizzeria quietly opened Wednesday with an array of goods from the restaurant and products both imported and from local vendors.

Owner Denny Tornatore was overseeing the market Wednesday night and pointing out favorite items on hand to a few shoppers.

The space is deceptively small – from the outside you might think there couldn’t be much stock. But every available square foot is occupied by shelves and display cases, and there’s a wall of reach-in coolers chockfull with fresh pastas, deli items and foods prepared by Tornatore’s executive chef, Jason Wolfe.

P's VietMí Café

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Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a place called P’s VietMí Café I have questions. First, who or what is P? And what is VietMí? The café part I was able to figure out on my own.

But the other two questions remain a mystery. A young man who answered the phone at the south Orlando restaurant, which opened earlier this year, seemed perplexed that I would even ask such questions, as though no one had ever inquired before. P? It’s just the name of the restaurant. Nope, not someone’s initial; it’s just P’s.

As for my other Q, it’s called VietMí because it’s a Vietnamese restaurant. I could almost here the silent “duh!” in his response.