Norman’s, the upscale dining restaurant from one of Florida’s most celebrated chefs, Norman Van Aken, has opened in its new location at Dellagio Town Center in the Restaurant Row District after an absence of nearly four years. Its return immediately widens the field for anyone conducting a search for Best Restaurant of Central Florida.
Norman’s had previously been at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando and in fact opened with the hotel in 2003. It was the first time the luxury hotel chain had partnered with an independent chef. (Here’s a fun bit of trivia: The Ritz-Carlton originally approached Wolfgang Puck to open a restaurant there, but Puck already had a restaurant at what was then Downtown Disney West Side and his noncompete clause with Walt Disney World prevented him from having another restaurant that close.)
When it opened, Norman’s was a second location for Van Aken’s popular Coral Gables restaurant (since closed) and was known originally as Norman’s at the Ritz-Carton. In 2019 the Ritz decided to end its relationship with Norman’s and the restaurant closed in September of that year. (The space is now occupied by Knife & Spoon, headed by another celebrity chef, John Tesar.)
Although Van Aken and his partner, Thomas D. Wood Jr., found a property to move to fairly quickly – selecting a vacated Bravo! Italian restaurant at the Dellagio – the soon-to-rear-its-ugly-head pandemic brought the process to a halt before it could begin.
But here it is. And as Norma (not Norman) Desmond sings in “Sunset Boulevard,” it’s as if we never said goodbye.
Fortuna Bakery, an Central Florida chain featuring Colombian and South American pastries, breads and savory items, will move into the space on Park Avenue that most recently was Grato of Winter Park. Before that it was Antonio’s House of Pizza, Antonio’s Trattoria & Wine Bar, and Maestro Cucina Napoletana. It was also, very very briefly, Makis Place, a Brazilian sushi franchise, and I seem to remember a place called Sala Wine Bar. Going back further, it was home to Park Avenue Compact Discs, which today would qualify as an antique store.
Eight Orlando restaurants will be added to Michelin Guide’s second Florida edition, including Victoria & Albert’s and Toledo at Walt Disney World and newcomers Kaya and Otto’s High Dive. Tampa will add three restaurants, joining the previously announced eight restaurants in Miami. Only restaurants in those three metropolitan areas are considered for the prestigious distinction.
Whether the restaurants will be awarded stars, designated a Bib Gourmand, or simply named to the list of recommended restaurants will be revealed at an invitation-only ceremony in Miami on May 11.
The third Orlando Magic-sponsored Orlando Wine Festival & Auction took place March 24 -26 with 420 attendees participating in wine dinners, tastings, and an auction, culminating with the Magic game Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets.