Constantine “Gus” Stamatin, whose restaurant was a West Orlando staple for many years, died on May 1, 2015. He was 84.
Gus’ Villa Rosa, which opened in 1980, featured a Mediterranean menu with Italian fare that also leaned a bit toward the Greek shores to reflect its owner’s heritage. The restaurant was on Old Winter Garden Road in Orlando and was a favorite among locals until it closed in 1993.
In my November 8, 1992, review of Gus’ Villa Rosa, I wrote:
The restaurant is stuck in a time warp; it does not appear to have changed since the 1960s. The main dining rooms most prominent feature is darkness. This is not the romantic mood of dimmed lights; this is blackness interrupted only here and there by bare light bulbs in overhead lamps and an occasional beer sign. It’s enough light to see the funky Italian-scape murals on the long wall, but not enough to read the menu. (Across the room
I noticed a man reading by Bic-light its the first time I have ever envied a smoker.)
What isn’t knotty pine is knotty plywood or plastic brick paneling. Chairs don’t match, and the walls sport laminated posters. A large aquarium with tiny fish separates the bar from a smaller (and better lighted) dining room. Tables are covered with linens and protected by a clear acrylic cover.
Does any of this detract from the dining experience? Are you kidding? All of this makes the dining experience. Without this eclectic atmosphere Villa Rosa would be just another Italian restaurant. With the crazy decor, its a hoot.
Gus Stamatin is the man whose name is on the restaurant (literally, in big red letters on the white block building). He and his wife Marlene have operated Villa Rosa for 12 years. They may not be big on decorating, but they sure know how to put some fine food together.
Stamatin was also one of the founding members of the Central Florida Chefs Association. His wife, Marlene, who ran the restaurant along with him, died in 2009. He is survived by the couple’s four children and four siblings plus numerous grand children and great grandchildren.