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Patina to open Italian concepts and cabaret in Disney Springs

Restaurants based on a story of an Italian couple in love

New York-based Patina Restaurant Group is opening four new restaurants at Disney Springs, the shopping and restaurant venue near the ticketed parks of Walt Disney World in Orlando.

All of them are part of Disney Springs’ invented storyline of a restored waterfront town of the 1930s and ’40s, Patina CEO Nick Valenti said.

Patina is leasing the space for the restaurants from Disney and has worked with Walt Disney Imagineering to develop the concepts. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.

“We’re involved in a very themed development,” Valenti said.

In this rendering, Pizza Ponte is at the far left, Maria & Enzo’s is in the center and The Edison is at right.

The first one scheduled to open is The Edison, a recreation of a 10-year-old night club, restaurant and cabaret by that name in Los Angeles.

“Disney wanted this concept, and we have licensed it from its owner,” said Valenti, adding that The Edison’s owner is also involved with the project.

The LA property is in the Higgins Building, the first building in the city with a private power plant. Its casual-dining Disney Springs counterpart was originally slated to open in 2016, according to a 2015 press release from Patina and Walt Disney World, but is now scheduled to open in a gala celebration on New Year’s Eve, Valenti said.

A key design element of the 15,000-square-foot space will be a 75-foot smokestack meant to be part of a mythical power plant.

“It’s quite spectacular,” Valenti said.

It will have three bars and a menu of contemporary versions of popular items such as ribs, fried chicken sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Three Italian concepts are slated to open within the first week of January, all located in an imagined abandoned sea-plane terminal.

As the story line for all three restaurants go, they are the creations of Enzo, an Italian pilot who came from a farming family and who met Maria, who grew up in Sicily and lived on a street near a church and convent whose nuns taught her to cook. Although the couple first met in Italy, they became reacquainted when they both immigrated to central Florida in the 1920s or ’30s and eventually were married.

Enzo bought the sea-plane terminal, and according to the story, which Valenti helped develop, converted it into a southern Italian restaurant called Maria & Enzo's, a 250-seat restaurant featuring dishes such as arancini di carne (fried meat-stuffed rice balls) and eggplant parmigiana.

But while they were converting the hangar, Enzo & Maria discovered not only a power plant that will become The Edison, but also abandoned “rum tunnels” used by bootleggers during Prohibition that the couple turned into Enzo’s Hideaway.

That restaurant will serve Roman dishes such as bucatini alla carbonara (hollow noodles in cream sauce) and tonnarelli cacio e pepe (square-cu pasta with pecorino and black pepper).

Finally, Pizza Ponte will be a fast-casual concept at the foot of a heavily trafficked foot bridge featuring two styles of Roman pizza, a round thin-crust pizza and a square-cut pizza, “what we [New Yorkers] would associate with Sicilian, but it’s not,” Valenti said.

He added that developing a story line was a useful exercise.

“Conceptually it’s very helpful in terms of developing concepts, and also in communicating why we’re doing this rather than that. … I think it’s a very smart way to work development,” he said.

Valenti said he expected the average per-person check at Maria & Enzo's to be around $40, and $30 to $35 at Enzo’s Hideaway. He said Edison checks would probably be in the low $20s and Pizza Ponte would be less than $10.

Theo Schoenegger, who most recently at the Sinatra Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel, is executive chef at all of the restaurants, Valenti said. 

Patina already operates a gelato shop called Vivoli il Gelato and Morimoto Asia, a pan-Asian restaurant, in Disney Springs as Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli at the nearby Epcot World Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Nov. 28, 2017: This story has been updated to correct the name of the restaurant Maria & Enzo's.

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