SJO Dining Deal: $40 of Food & Drink at Prickly Pear for $20

Written By Scott Joseph On November 17, 2011


Prickly Pear is the new restaurant from the people who brought you Funky Monkey and Bananas Diner, and this is one that is unique to the area. It features the cuisine of the American Southwest, which should not be confused with Tex-Mex. You might see some similarities — after all, Tex is part of the American Southwest, too. But you’ll also see influences of New Mexico and Arizona, and you’ll find vibrant seasonings and spices in many of the dishes. The food is not necessarily hot, in fact little of it is, but the addition of chili pepper, say, to a spice rub can give a dish a certain piquancy. Here’s a link if you missed my review of Prickly Pear.

But why don’t you go see for yourself? The guys at FMI have authorized me to offer an SJO Dining Deal at Prickly Pear: $40 of food and drink for just $20. Click here for details.


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Rocco’s Italian Grille

Written By Scott Joseph On June 22, 2011



The zozzana sauce, right, is very good, but the bolognese is wonderful.

I stopped in at Rocco’s the other evening and sampled some of the items owner Rocco Potami is featuring on his summer menu. Every time I have dinner there, I leave with the reinforced feeling that this is one of the best Italian restaurants in Central Florida — and one that is under appreciated.

And I think it’s under appreciated only because it falls outside the casual diner’s radar when they’re considering their dining options. After yet another terrific meal, I convinced Rocco to let me offer a special SJO Dining Deal: $40 of food and drink for $20. Use this as an opportunity to try Rocco’s for the first time or to return if it’s been a while since you’ve last visited.

One of the items you must have is Rocco’s bolognese. You think you know bolognese? You probably know Americanized versions of the meat sauce. Rocco’s is the classic Italian preparation, and once you taste the real deal, you’ll wonder how you’ve lived this long without it. (Well, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but it’s really good.)

Also try veal alla Rocco, a scallopine topped with roasted peppers, prosciutto and fontina cheese with


Veal alla Rocco

a demi-glace tinged with a bit of white wine. For a lighter dish, perfect for summer supping, have the swordfish with artichoke and a bit of a lemony/buttery taste, served with a contorno of sauteed spinach.

If you’ve been to Rocco’s before, you already know that service is first-rate — these aren’t a bunch of college kids just working a side job, they’re professionals whose job is to make the evening as enjoyable as possible. And Rocco himself is usually on hand to greet you and give you insight into his authentic Italian cuisine. So use this opportunity to try Rocco’s for yourself, or return if it’s been awhile. You’ll see why it’s won so many accolades over the years.

Click here to go to the SJO Dining Deal.

Rocco’s is at 400 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park (there’s plenty of parking in the back). It’s open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. Note that the SJO Dining Deal certificate is valid for the dinner a la carte menu only. Here’s a link to Rocco’s website. The phone number is 407-644-7770.


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City Fire American Oven & Bar

Written By Scott Joseph On June 2, 2011

City_Fire_InteriorCity Fire, the newest restaurant to take up residence in the Dellagio Town Center off Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, is bound to do well just on the nostalgia factor alone. It is a project of Manny Garcia, whose Pebbles and Harvey’s Bistro restaurants were local favorites for many years. And Garcia has brought in his old creative team, including executive chef Tony Pace, chef Todd Bagget, and front-of-the-house managers Gina and Mike Buell (Garcia’s daughter and son-in-law) and Benj Ray. Just mentioning the Pebbles link evokes memories among longtime locals of such dishes as thumbits, nutty cheesy salad and chicken Vesuvio.

Now two SJO Dining Deals (click the links):

$30 of food and drink at City Fire for $15 at lunch

$40 of food and drink at City Fire for $20 at dinner

Those dishes are on the City Fire menu, as well, but with a twist. City Fire occupies a space that was previously an Urban Flats, and when he was developing the menu, Pace decided that he would use the stone oven that came with the restaurant almost exclusively. So instead of a chicken Vesuvio that used to be served over boiled noodles, City Fire offers a baked lasagna version. And I like it better than the old way — the hints of rosemary and lemon in the garlic sauce are a little more subtle, and the lasagna noodles offer more heft. Other items, such as the braised short ribs and roasted pork shank, are naturals for the oven treatment, and are done quite nicely.


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SJO Dining Deal: Heidelberg German Restaurant

Written By Scott Joseph On May 20, 2011


This week’s SJO Dining Deal is for anyone who loves good German and Austrian food: $40 of food and drink at Heidelberg German Restaurant in Cocoa Beach for $20. If you didn’t see my recent review of Heidelberg, click that link.

If you want to go directly to the SJO Dining Deal, that’s the link for you.

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SJO Dining Deal: Logan’s Bistro, $40 of Food and Drink for $20

Written By Scott Joseph On April 21, 2011


If I were to put together a list of Orlando’s Top 10 hidden dining gems, Logan’s Bistro would be right there at the top. It is certainly hidden — it’s in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it little building on Virginia Drive just West of Mills Avenue. And based on my most recent review and the quality of the food I had, it also qualifies as a gem.

The atmosphere is comfy and neighborhoody, but the food is as good as you’d find in a fine dining restaurant, and as stylishly presented, too. This really is a place you should try if you’ve never been. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited, here’s a chance to go back with a really good deal.

Owner Sonya Condrey and crew are offering an exclusive deal to SJO readers: $40 of food and drink for $20.

Click here to go to the SJO Dining Deals page.

Something new: You may now purchase up to four certificates with one transaction. The certificates bear only the value amount — $40 — not the purchase price, so they’re ideal to give as gifts. Remember, however, that only one certificate per table.


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SJO Dining Deal: $40 of Food and Drink at Citrus for $20

Written By Scott Joseph On April 7, 2011


Update: This SJO Dining Deal has sold out. To ensure you are among the first to know about future Deals, sign up for the newsletter.

It’s been fun watching Citrus become a good restaurant. I mean a really good restaurant. I should explain. When Citrus opened, in 2007, it was good enough, which is what I said in my initial review. But I also said it could be better. Instead of high-fiving each other for being good enough, the team at Urban Life Restaurant Group, which also owns HUE and Cityfish, decided to strive to be better.

They were an immediate hit as a lunch destination, and I awarded the restaurant my critic’s choice Foodie Award for best power lunch on several occasions. The downtown power elite descend on this NoDo restaurant in droves. One particular politician was so partial to an item on the menu that it was renamed Mayor Dyer’s Lime Chicken Salad.

But if your only experience with Citrus is at lunchtime, you’re missing out on what it has to offer as a dinner destination, one that is uniquely urban and urbane. The Florida shrimp and grits here are among the best in town. Florida snapper, Idaho brook trout and pomegranate salmon are wonderfully light entrees. But lest you think this is seafood  centric (and, just between you and me, that is their forte), the chimichurri skirt steak and passion fruit flat iron chicken are also good choices.

So now, not quite four years after opening, Citrus has found its stride. There is a easy balance between the comfortabilty of a known menu and the edginess of a vibrant, downtown venue. Trust me, this place changes vibes after dark, and it’s a lot of fun.

So I’m pleased to offer Citrus as our next SJO Dining Deal. Click here to get a certificate that is worth $40 or food and drink but pay only $20 for it. That’s like, what?, half off? it’s a great opportunity to come back and rediscover Citrus and to see how they’re doing, or, if you’re new, to enjoy it for the first time. I know you’re going to like this one because I know that you like places that are better than just good enough.


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SJO Deal: Carmela’s of Brooklyn

Written By Scott Joseph On March 24, 2011


If you read my recent review of Carmela’s of Brooklyn, you know that I think they do a terrific job with their food. Now, managing partner Sal Grassano has authorized me to offer an SJO Deal of $20 of Food and Drink at Carmela’s of Brooklyn for $10. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, you should know two people can pretty much stuff themselves silly at Carmela’s for 20 bucks. The deal was announced earlier in a newsletter blast, so the limited number available has gotten smaller, but a few still remain. Click here to go directly to the SJO Deal page. And if you’re not getting the newsletter and want to be the first to know about future deals, sign up here.

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SJO Deal: Carmela’s of Brooklyn

Written By Scott Joseph On March 23, 2011


Get $20 of Food and Drink at Carmela’s of Brooklyn for $10

It’s been almost exactly six years since my initial review of Carmela’s of Brooklyn was published on April 3, 2005. It was a positive review. I made mention of the good service, the fun (if stereotypical) decor and, most notably, the food, especially the pizza, which I noted was one of the closest renditions of an authentic New York style pie as you’re likely to find in Florida.

But I had the niggling feeling — one I didn’t mention in my review — that Carmela’s wouldn’t be able to sustain the high quality. And the reason was that it was backed by a large national company and was poised to be rolled out as a chain. The Longwood restaurant was merely the prototype, despite the claims on the marquee that the restaurant was established in 1959 (it was a reference to the first Carmela’s, which, like the sign says, was in Brooklyn).

But now, six years later, there are exactly two Carmela’s of Brooklyn: the original, still in Longwood Village Shoppes on State Road 434, and one on Kirkman Road in Orlando. And any concerns I had about Carmela’s losing its soul to a corporate overlord evaporated when I visited the Carmela’s of Brooklyn (of Longwood) recently. The food is still first-rate and the servers were delightful.


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Sam Sneads

Written By Administrator On April 27, 2009

Sam SneadsHere’s another exclusive coupon deal for readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide. Go to Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern next to the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland, purchase any item from the restaurant’s Oak Grill menu, including their terrific burger, and the wine is on me.

Just click on the coupon hereicon Sam Sneads 05/31/2009 (121.45 kB), print it out and take it to 1801 Maitland Blvd., Maitland, and exchange it for a glass of wine from Snead’s “Front Nine” wine list. Snead’s menu includes steaks, fish, chicken and ribs. So there’s got to be something you’re hungry for. The coupon is good through May, but you can go back as often as you like.

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