Outlined in red is the closed Don Pablo's restaurant on the corner of International Drive and Austrian Row that will be renovated into a new restaurant. Less than a block north (green) is Cafe Tu Tu Tango, owned by the same incoming developer.
Outlined in red is the closed Don Pablo's restaurant on the corner of International Drive and Austrian Row that will be renovated into a new restaurant. Less than a block north (green) is Cafe Tu Tu Tango, owned by the same incoming developer. (Orange County Property Appraiser / staff edit)

Virginia-based Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP) is preparing to introduce a new Italian brand in its portfolio to Orlando's tourism corridor, leasing a closed restaurant on International Drive with extensive renovations planned.

To be located at 8717 International Dr., the building of roughly 8,000 square feet was formerly a Don Pablo's restaurant that closed in 2016.

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ARP currently has six restaurant brands and locations that it owns or manages, five of which are in Alexandria. Its lone property outside that home base is the Cafe Tu Tu Tango on Orlando's I-Drive, which a company partner helped bring to market more than 20 years ago, occupied via land lease.

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The future property, less than 500 feet south of Cafe Tu Tu Tango, will be for newly-created concept Mia's Italian. Early design of the brand's theming, menu, logo, website and interior are still underway, said Brian Janney, director of operations in Florida.

"We have the first two properties for Mia's Italian being built simultaneously in Alexandria and the one on I-Drive," he told GrowthSpotter. "Our partners chose I-Drive because they know the traffic, development and growth that market has shown."

The company filed a construction permit request with Orange County on Dec. 29 for an extensive interior renovation of the closed restaurant building. Further work will include minor exterior updates and landscaping, with Janney estimating close to $1 million to be invested overall through buildout and opening.

Orlando-based Benchmark Contract Management is general contractor on the project, and Charlotte-based BSB Design is the architect.

ARP is targeting an opening in the second quarter of this year, potentially as early as April, pending permit approval and renovation. The Orlando opening for Mia's Italian will be staggered to follow the opening in Alexandria, which has been delayed due to permitting there, Janney said.

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A focal point of the Mia's Italian interior design will be on "a beautiful brick pizza oven in the middle of a very long bar that will set the tone as you walk in," he said. "The menu will be a la carte, and we'll feature a private dining room for 40 to 50 people and an exterior patio space that can be reserved."

Planning for that private party space is a key part of the Mia's Italian offering for I-Drive, to capitalize on the Orange County Convention Center's business travel crowd. Cafe Tu Tu Tango does more than $1 million annually in revenue from private group dining, said Janney, despite not having formal space set up to accommodate.

"With all of our restaurants, one thing we like to have stand out is the vibe of the interior itself," Janney said. "We want it to be hip, new-age and fun with a real focus on ambiance. The art and interior, lighting and music should all come together with great food and service to give a memorable experience."

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ARP is under contract to lease the endcap restaurant space from owner Gala Enterprises of Central Florida, which owns and manages multiple retail properties in the tourism corridor.

Looking forward, ARP will explore Greater Orlando and Florida for further market expansion of its restaurant brands, and some that may be acquired in the near future, Janney said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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