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Changes Afloat Again for Former Pleasure Island Yacht Club

Written By Scott Joseph On October 26, 2015

MantuanoScott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide has learned that Portobello, the Italian restaurant at the newly re-branded Disney Springs, will have some changes of its own to announce soon. Chief among them will be a renaming of the Levy Restaurants eatery to highlight its association with celebrated chef Tony Mantuano.

It makes good sense just in terms of keeping up with the neighbors. There are big names from the culinary world who have announced upcoming Disney Springs projects. In the case of Morimoto Asia, the Patina Group pan-Asian eatery it operates with Masaharu Morimoto, the restaurant is already open. (Watch for a review this week.)

 Just in the last couple of weeks, Disney officials confirmed that Rick Bayless and Art Smith will both have a presence at Disney Springs. Bayless will bring Frontera Fresco, a quick-serve version of his popular Frontera Grill, and Smith, one of the reasons Oprah has eaten so well, will open Homecoming. Both are winners of James Beard Foundation awards, among many other honors, and both have strong Chicago presences.

Mantuano, too. In addition to his Beard award, he was recently honored by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel with a proclamation naming October 15, 2015, Tony Mantuano Day, citing, among other achievements, the success and popularity of Spiaggia, his upscale Italian restaurant, a favorite of the Obamas when they’re in Chicago.

Mantuano has been associated with Portobello for several years. In late 2008 and early 2009, the name Portobello Yacht Club was changed to simply Portobello. At that time, Mantuano collaborated with chef Steven Richard to revamp the menu. The restaurant, which opened in 1989 as one of the original Pleasure Island restaurants, was themed as the former home of Pleasure Island’s “founder” Merriweather Pleasure and his wife, Isabella, which was converted to a yacht club when they moved, presumably to Golden Oaks. The backstory was put further in the back when Portobello was renamed, although Disney is still attaching “history” to its new buildings. (Morimoto Asia, for instance, is supposed to have been a former bottling plant, and not a former dance club called Mannequins, which featured a giant turntable dance floor that was often packed with shirtless, mostly gay men twirling and spinning; better backstory, if you ask me.)

Don’t expect Portobello’s name to change drastically. It hasn’t been fully decided, but one possibility is simply Portobello by Tony Mantuano. That’s smart, and will further enhance the Springs as a dining destination to taste the food of celebrity chefs, even if they keep homes in other states.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sign proclaiming Kevin Dundon’s Raglan Road soon.

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