WINTER GARDEN — A new restaurant is opening in downtown Winter Garden, serving authentic Sicilian flavors and recipes that have been passed down through generations of the owners’ family.
Catania, named for Salvatore Cimino’s hometown in Sicily, is located at 126 W. Plant St., which was previously Sweet Traditions Bakery. The Ciminos recently bought the space after the owner of Sweet Traditions decided to move back to the United Kingdom for personal reasons.
The Ciminos continued to operate the business as Sweet Traditions for a short time but then closed to remodel. The restaurant will reopen as Catania as soon as Sept. 4.
When the Ciminos looked at old reviews of Sweet Traditions, they found two comments that were frequently repeated: Customers loved the pastries but wanted an updated look to the restaurant. After the remodel, some equipment was moved from the front of the restaurant to the back, and the display case was moved up to make it more easily accessible for customers.
Pastry-lovers who used to frequent Sweet Traditions have nothing worry about.
“We’re still going to keep a lot of those pastries,” said Angi Cimino, Salvatore’s daughter. “A lot of things on the menu are going to stay.”
But instead of a primarily French influence, the new focus is Italian cuisine.
The panini at Sweet Traditions were popular, so they will still be available at Catania. All bread will be baked in the restaurant’s front oven, so customers can enjoy the sight and aroma of fresh bread as it goes straight from the oven to their plates.
The pasta will be just as freshly made at a prep station in the front of the restaurant, where customers can watch as it is created.
“We’re going to be able to cut it right here — we’re going to cut the dough, and we’re going to cook it. It cooks in very little time when you’ve got fresh pasta,” Cimino said.
Each day, there will be a different selection of pasta sauces and toppings. But they will all have one thing in common.
“All the flavors are going to be as authentic as we can get them, with Grandma’s recipes,” Cimino said.
Salvatore Cimino grew up in Sicily but later moved to Venezula, where he met his wife, Zulys. They have two daughters: Angi and Andrea.
The family moved to south Florida 11 years ago and later to Orlando. They did not know about Winter Garden until they were looking for a home for Catania, but they have learned a lot about the history of the area since then—especially from the owners of Downtown Brown’s, who occupied the space before Sweet Traditions and stopped by to meet the Ciminos after they had moved in.
“We came here and we fell in love with the town, the people,” Cimino said.
Everyone in the family contributed their strengths and backgrounds to create the overall atmosphere and concept of Catania.
Salvatore spent most of his life working as an engineer but also has experience in the restaurant business and with planning events.
“Some people say, ‘The restaurant business is so hard,’ and it is — but for him, it’s sort of slowing down,” Angi Cimino said about Salvatore. “It’s not the same, being in a place that’s enclosed, air-conditioned, you’re dealing with customers, when before, he was in mine field and oil fields.”
Angi’s experience as a professional architect was helpful during the remodel, and Zulys’ heritage will be highlighted at certain “Latin Night” events at the restaurant.
Andrea is studying music at the University of Central Florida and therefore has many connections with trained musicians. The family built two small stages at the front of the restaurant, where Andrea’s friends and other performers can showcase their talents. Customers can expect to be serenaded by classical arias and art songs as they dine in the evening.
“Each one of us has a little thing that we’re going to put together so we can do all this,” Cimino said.
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].