ALBANY — Ric Orlando, one of the Capital Region’s most visible chefs for more than 30 years, is no longer affiliated with New World Bistro Bar, for which he was the executive chef since its opening in March 2009. The change was effective Sunday.
New World will be closed temporarily until a new head chef is hired, according to Annette Nanes, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Scott Meyer. (They also were founders and longtime co-owners of the Spectrum 8 Theatres.) In addition to running the kitchen, Orlando was compensated for use of the New World name, which Orlando established when he opened New World Home Cooking in Woodstock in 1993, and for his recipes, many of which have become regionally famous, including jerk chicken, blackened stringbeans, Cajun peppered shrimp, Purple Haze shrimp, ropa vieja, Thai-Italian Love Panang Bolognese and the more recent indulgence of smoked, bacon-wrapped, gouda-stuffed meatloaf.
The restaurant name will remain New World Bistro Bar, but the food will change: Orlando is retaining rights to his recipes.
Nanes tells me the future culinary direction of the restaurant will in part be guided by Orlando’s successor, but she says the eclectic, progressive spirit of the restaurant, from the kitchen and service staff to the overall vibe, is something she intends to continue to foster.
Both sides say the parting was amicable. Nanes tells me, “We fully intend to reopen as soon as possible under whatever COVID-19 guidelines are in place at the time. The atmosphere and staff will of course remain the same, and we look forward to to seeing our beloved customers again.” She tells me the closure could be as brief as a couple of weeks or last beyond a month if the chef search takes longer than expected.
Orlando, who is now 60 and lives an hour south of Albany, tells me the coronavirus shutdown caused him to reflect on his priorities, professionally and personally. He has a number of projects to develop, including a line of spices and prepared foods, a consulting position with Hannaford supermarkets, pop-up cooking events planned for the summer, cooking classes, a podcast and YouTube channel.
“I might also want to go back to work in a kitchen,” Orlando says. “If anybody is looking for a chef-consultant, I will be entertaining offers.”
Orlando made his name locally as the head chef at the former Justin’s (now Savoy Taproom), where the Lark Street spot became the most exciting place to eat in Albany. He opened New World Home Cooking in 1993, moving it in 1998 to Saugerties, where it was open until two years ago. Though he was based 45 miles south of Albany from 1993 until New World Bistro Bar’s opening 16 years later, Orlando remained a frequent presence at many local food events and maintained his ties with Capital Region customers and restaurant folks, and he says he still considers Albany his culinary home base.
New World is at 300 Delaware Ave.