As I told you in a flog exclusive last year, Manny Garcia has signed on to revitalize the venerable Park Plaza Gardens. Now Garcia tells me that he has brought his longtime corporate chef, Tony Pace, in to the project. Or, as Garcia put it, “I pulled his ass out of retirement.”
Pace will be working as menu consultant alongside PPG’s executive chef, John Tan, to shore up the restaurants culinary side. When Garcia was tapped, earlier this year, by PPG owner Mary Demetree, he brought Benj Ray in as general manager. Both Pace and Ray had been involved in Garcia’s newest restaurant, City Fire, which opened and closed within one year on Restaurant Row. (The Villages City Fire is doing great business, according to Garcia, and a second Villages location is in the works.) Both were also involved in Garcia’s earlier restaurants, including Harvey’s Bistro and the now legendary Pebbles.
In the front of the house, local architect Raymond R. Schaefer of Maverick Architecture and Design is working on a plan to remodel the interior of the restaurant, which has famously featured a patio-like mien inside the space next door to the Park Plaza Hotel.
Park Plaza Gardens is one of the oldest restaurants in Central Florida, and certainly the elder among the area’s fine dining establishments.