As you’re probably aware, Timpano, one of the earliest inhabitants of Orlando’s Restaurant Row, was acquired by the restaurant arm of Tavistock after original owner E-Brands went belly up. (Never quite understood that term — belly up isn’t always a bad thing, but I think you know what I mean here.) Tavistock also got Samba Room in the deal, but was able to unload, um, sell it off. The Restaurant Row Samba Room, next door to Timpano, will soon become Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar, a chain out of West Palm Beach that apparently features the owner pouring tequila down the throats of patrons who belly up (You see! Right there!) to the bar. Be sure to bring the kids!
Anyway, one of the things Tavistock inherited with its acquisition of Timpano, which was first started by Carlson Wordwide, parent company of TGI Fridays, before it unloaded, um, sold it to Orlando-based E-Brands, is the indifference locals feel towards the brand, whatever that is. It claims Italian Chophouse as its subhead, but no one — and by no one I mean mainly myself — could ever figure out if it was an Italian restaurant that served steaks or a steakhouse that served Italian food.
So Tavistock Restaurant Group is trying to do what it can to reinvigorate the restaurant and get locals to try it out. To that end, Timpano is offering free shuttle service to guests.
This is not a new idea — Charley’s Steak House has offered it for years — but around here it’s a service usually provided to tourists, especially groups of convention goers coming en masse from one hotel. Timpano says it’s available to anyone within 20 minutes of the restaurant, although that can be a spongey criterion — during rush hour it takes 20 minutes just to get through the intersection of Sand Lake Road and I-4, which, it should be pointed out, is approximately a five minute walk from the restaurant.
Also, the 14-passenger mini bus is available on a first come/first driven basis. So if a couple in the Bay Hill neighborhood calls for a ride, a group at Walt Disney World will just have to wait or take a cab. General manager Michael Joffrion told me that the shuttle has been used in other communities with Tavistock restaurant brands but said that the spread-out nature of Central Florida may present some challenges. Still, they hope to work out the kinks. I may call for it myself to go check out the changes that have been made since the new owners took over.
It’s nice to finally see a Tavistock restaurant in Central Florida, even if it is via the roundabout way of acquisition. Although Tavistock Restaurant Group is based in San Francisco, and Tavistock Group, founded by Joe Lewis, is headquartered in the Bahamas (wink, wink), it developed Islesworth, the gated community where the mansions also have their own gates, and is the developer of Lake Nona. Its other brands include Alcatraz Brewing Company, ZED451, Napa Valley Grille, California Cafe, Freebirds World Burrito and Cafe del Rey. Anxious to see which of the brands will be selected for the restaurant-poor Lake Nona area.
If you’d like to book the Timpano shuttle, call 407-248-0429. And keep in mind that it’s bad form to use the shuttle for a ride to Timpano and then walk across the street to Vines Grille and Wine Bar.