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FNN Good News & Reviews: Welcome to Dezerland Action Park Orlando, Florida’s Biggest Indoor Entertainment Complex

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – In this week’s episode of FNN Good News & Reviews, John Goodman, VP of Sales and Marketing for Dezerland Park Orlando and Dezerland Park Miami, sat down with co-host Mellissa Thomas and shared Dezerland Park Orlando’s origins, its extensive car collection, and why Dezerland Park Orlando is a great attraction for both locals, tourists, and even aspiring small business owners alike.

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FNN Good News & Reviews

FNN Good News & Reviews: Mandola’s Italian Kitchen Opens Third Florida Location in Oldsmar

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Mandola's Italian Kitchen opened its third Florida location in Oldsmar. Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News,
Mandola's Italian Kitchen opened its third location in Oldsmar, in the Tampa Bay area. Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News

Modeled after an Italian marketplace, Mandola’s Italian Kitchen brings its quick service concept to Oldsmar. Named after famed restaurateur Damian Mandola, who founded Carrabba’s with his nephew Johnny Carrabba, the restaurant’s third Florida location is also co-owned by Paul Avery, the former Chief Operating Officer of Outback Steakhouse.

“While in New York or in the North End of Boston or Providence, Rhode Island, I would go to the Italian areas,” Mandola said. “You have the bakery or you have the gelateria or the cafe, or the deli with all the food products and the cheeses and olive oil and things like that.”

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Mandola, who admits his passion lies in the cooking process and fresh ingredients, while Avery is the business mastermind, felt the need to put all of those Italian staples under one roof, so he and his wife opened their first Mandola’s in Austin, TX in 2006. The concept grew rapidly and quickly moved into Florida with its first location in Riverview in 2001 and Carrollwood shortly thereafter.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Guests enter Mandola’s and walk right up to the counter to order where they are greeted by friendly staff who are ready to take them on a culinary journey their taste buds won’t forget. Food is cooked fresh in an open kitchen using the best ingredients and pasta al dente just like Mama Mandola would have prepared it.

The vibrant dining room adorned with red and green chairs, flags from the ceiling, and walls adorned with family photos is a welcome calling. Moments after we were seated, fresh focaccia bread with olive oil and spices for dipping arrived at the table.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Our table ordered the fried mozzarella for the antipasti course. Golden brown triangles with oodles of gooey mozzarella and the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

For dinner, we feasted on traditional favorites: eggplant parmigiana with spaghetti and marinara sauce and chicken parmesan served with fettuccine Alfredo. Equally delicious and the portion size left us with barely any room for dessert!

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.
Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

“A lot of these are Mama Mandola’s recipes,” he said. “Chicken parmesan is our favorite and our biggest seller. For me, my favorite is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. It reminds me of Sundays at my mom’s and we had all the family together.”

No matter what you are in the mood for, the menu features a plethora of salads (with homemade dressing) antipasti, pizza, pasta, and chicken dishes like chicken marsala with a wine reduction from the Lombardi Family in Sicily, as well as daily specials like linguine with clam sauce, and brasato, beef short rib, slow-braised with red wine, aromatic vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Photo: Todd Grasley/Florida National News.

Thirsty? No worries. In addition to traditional Italian sodas, sparkling waters, and soft drinks, Mandola’s also offers beer, wine on tap, and specialty drinks such as sangria, bellinis, frose, mimosas, and spritz from the bar.

If we could offer one very valuable piece of advice, it is to save room for dessert! The bakery is a can’t-miss at Mandola’s, with fresh pastries made daily including Italian cookies like lemon ricotta, famous cannolis, specialty cakes, tiramisu, and who could forget sorbetto and gelato?

My guest and I couldn’t decide on one flavor each, so we went with a combo of lemon and raspberry, and almond with cookies and cream. Let’s just say we both agreed it was as good as the ones we enjoyed in Italy.

Mandola’s Italian Kitchen is located at 3138 Tampa Rd, Oldsmar, FL, and is open for lunch and dinner and plans to open future locations in nearby Odessa, Orlando, and Jacksonville as well.

The restaurant is perfect for a family dinner, or date night, or if you want to stop in and grab a coffee and dessert that’s an excellent idea as well!

 

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FNN Good News & Reviews

FNN Good News & Reviews: Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Brings the South to Your Mouth at ICON Park

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Brother Jimmy's BBQ opened its new location at ICON Park on International Drive in early August. Photo: J. Willie David III / Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – “Put some south in yo’ mouth.”– Brother Jimmy’s BBQ certainly delivers on its motto at ICON Park on International Drive.

The barbecue chain, launched in North Carolina in 1989, opened its new location at ICON Park in early August and opened its doors to the media Wednesday, providing a sample of rich ribs (both sauced and dry rub), pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans, cornbread, and tea (sweet and unsweetened).

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

 

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ cuisine is made fresh in-house, with the butcher chopping, seasoning, smoking and slicing fresh meat before your very eyes. Utensils await diners in tall receptacles on each table, next to a small container showcasing three barbecue sauces: Original, North Carolina, and Chipotle; and in true southern charm, diners can enjoy their drinks in mason jars.

 

 

The 7,200-plus square foot restaurant offers an open, inviting dining experience that lulls you to stay a while. The furniture there was taken directly from the restaurant’s New York location and shows some “personality” in the slight wear of the wood and unique giant metal pig figurines peppering several tables. The restaurant offers its own photo both (and a board close to the main entrance to post the pics for others to see), tons of TV screens to watch whichever game you wish to see, and the whole back half of the establishment is a mini-arcade with pinball, mini basketball, and yes, beer pong. Also, kids eat free at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ with the purchase of one entree.

Looking for some good barbecue in a great atmosphere? Learn more and check out the menu on the Brother Jimmy’s BBQ website.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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FNN Good News & Reviews: ICON Park’s Latest Häagen-Dazs® Shop Offers Irresistible City Sweets Collection

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Sofia, the senior staff member at the new Häagen-Dazs® shop at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando, holds a platter of sweet and savory ice cream and sorbet offerings: a bowl of the new black and white cookie, one of the two new options in the City Sweets Collection, the peanut butter pretzel milkshake, the second City Sweets Collection option, as well as a mango sorbet bowl, a strawberry sorbet bowl, and a banana split. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Dining at ICON Park on International Drive has gotten sweeter in the last two months, thanks to the opening of a second Häagen-Dazs® shop, located right under the big wheel, nestled between Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips, the Orlando Sea Aquarium, and Ole Red. It’s so new, it’s not even on Google Maps yet!

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Thanks to its location in the heart of ICON Park, the still-new shop has enjoyed a positive response from tourists in the area. “It’s been great,” said store manager Art Nitikin of the customer traffic they’ve seen so far. “We opened close to the end of Spring Break [in April], so we caught that crowd, and now with summer coming, we hope to have even more people here.”

An eager customer comes in for a milkshake just minutes after the Häagen-Dazs® shop opens at 12pm. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

An eager customer comes in for a milkshake just minutes after the Häagen-Dazs® shop opens at 12pm. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Haagen-Dazs manager Art Nitikin (center) and the shop staff prep an exquisite banana split for a customer. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Haagen-Dazs manager Art Nitikin (center) and the shop staff prep a banana split for a customer. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

The New City Sweets Collection

Well, if Florida’s already 90-plus degree temperatures don’t bring the masses in for the summer, Häagen-Dazs’® latest sweet treats will. Their new City Sweets Collection introduces two fun and insanely flavorful combinations: the black and white cookie dazzler, a treat so packed you’ll likely end up sharing it with someone, and the chocolate peanut butter pretzel milkshake, a cool and addictive take on the tried and true sweet-salty combination.

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Kathleen Michelle tries the chocolate peanut butter pretzel milkshake. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Kathleen Michelle tries the chocolate peanut butter pretzel milkshake. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

In fact, the milkshake’s so yummy, it won Nitikin over. “My favorite flavor was always the cookies and cream, but I really like the chocolate peanut butter pretzel milkshake,” he confessed on the show. “But that’s ’cause I love peanut butter.”

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Mellissa Thomas tries the piled-high black and white cookie dazzler. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Mellissa Thomas tries the piled-high black and white cookie dazzler. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

The black and white cookie dazzler comes packed high in a cup with caramel, cookie chunks, ice cream, whipped cream, and two Lorna Doone shortbread cookies standing in the whipped cream for good measure. The best way to eat it is in a bowl, so that you can see and easily get to all of the layers and ingredients.

 

Non-Dairy? They’ve Got You Covered.

While the new location has 30 ice cream flavors to offer, they also have four exquisite fruit sorbet flavors for non-dairy customers to choose from: lemonade, strawberry, raspberry, and mango.

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Kathleen Michelle tries the strawberry sorbet. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

FNN Good News & Reviews co-host Kathleen Michelle tries the strawberry sorbet. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

The sorbets offer immediate refreshment for heat-worn visitors and excited kids, flooding the tastebuds with frozen fresh fruit puree, not just pounds of fruit-flavored syrup.

The mango sorbet, like its strawberry counterpart, packs on the flavor of true mango puree. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

The mango sorbet, like its strawberry counterpart, packs on the flavor of true mango puree. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

Whether you’re a local bringing the kids to ICON Park for fun during summer break or a visitor to beautiful Orlando, stop in to the new Häagen-Dazs® and try their new (or tried and true) treats.

Sofia, the senior staff member at the new Häagen-Dazs® shop at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando, holds a platter of sweet and savory ice cream and sorbet offerings: a bowl of the new black and white cookie, one of the two new options in the City Sweets Collection, the peanut butter pretzel milkshake, the second City Sweets Collection option, as well as a mango sorbet bowl, a strawberry sorbet bowl, and a banana split. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Sofia, the senior staff member at the new Häagen-Dazs® shop at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando, holds a platter of sweet and savory ice cream and sorbet offerings: a bowl of the new black and white cookie, one of the two new options in the City Sweets Collection, the peanut butter pretzel milkshake, the second City Sweets Collection option, as well as a mango sorbet bowl, a strawberry sorbet bowl, and a banana split. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

We give the new Häagen-Dazs® at ICON Park a 4.5 out of 5 for tastiness, cleanliness, and positive and helpful staff.

Watch the full interview above and new episodes of FNN Good News & Reviews every Thursday at 12pm ET on Facebook and YouTube @FNN News TV.

_________________________________________________________

Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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