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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 9 months ago

Portillo’s coming to Lake Buena Vista

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The Chicago-style eatery is bringing its Italian flavors to a location just outside of Horizon West.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

If you’re craving that authentic taste of Italian meats from Chicago, you’re in luck.

Portillo’s, the popular Chicago eatery, recently was announced as a new restaurant within Unicorp National Development’s upcoming project, The Village at O-Town West in Lake Buena Vista.

The new location, set for the corner of Palm Parkway and Daryl Carter Boulevard, will be the very first in the Orlando area, joining two other Sunshine State locations in Tampa and Brandon.

Portillo’s features a menu filled with items such as Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, char-grilled burgers, fresh salads and Portillo’s famous chocolate cake.

“Our company strives to partner with tenants that can help showcase the area as a world-class destination for visitors,” Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, said in a statement. “Portillo’s will be a great addition to our stellar dining options here in Lake Buena Vista.” 

It’s like a foodie dream come true for Winter Garden resident Denise Gregorie, who’s originally from the suburbs of Chicago and remembers growing up eating Portillo’s. Now that nostalgic menu is just a short drive away.

“We’re very excited — we went over to Tampa to get it, but before that we would get mail-aways from my sister who’s still back in Chicago or my parents who would send it over for football games or special events or Christmas,” Gregorie said. “We’d get beef and sausage and hot dogs in the mail, and that would be a happy day for all.

“That will not be a tough trip to make (to Lake Buena Vista), and it will be made frequently,” she said. “It’s the taste of Chicago coming to Orlando — it doesn’t get better than that.”

Gregorie’s twin sister, Diane Melesio, has fond memories of their father taking them as children to the original Portillo’s — a trailer in a parking lot in Villa Park, Illinois.

“In every Portillo’s they have a picture of the original (trailer), and it was not too far from my father’s office,” Melesio said.

That original trailer was first opened back in 1963 by Dick Portillo, who invested $1,100 in that small hot dog stand originally called The Dog House. Years later, Portillo’s has expanded to more than 60 locations across several states.

Vallory Farrasso, senior marketing manager at Portillo’s, said that first-time guests have to try the Italian beef sandwich — dipped, with sweet or hot peppers and cheese fries. 

Portillo’s is excited to call Lake Buena Vista home, Farrasso said, adding that the location also will include a double-lane drive-thru for hungry guests on the go. 

“We chose Lake Buena Vista because it’s one of the most popular destinations in the country and there is a large population of Midwesterners living in Florida,” Farrasso said. “Our fans have been very vocal about us opening a location here. We’re proud to be in the front of The Village at O-Town West and can’t wait to get started building our restaurant to entertain and feed our hungry guests.”

Portillo’s is expected to open in late 2020, according to Ana Espinoza, senior account supervisor at Wagstaff — the PR and marketing agency for Portillo’s.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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