Local restaurants scare up fun, funds at 2nd annual Monster Mash benefit

·4 min read

Formed last year in response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Restaurant & Allied Partnership of Central Florida (RAPCF) came together for last year’s adorably named Mask-for-Aid Ball and raised more than $15,000 last year, proceeds that went right back into helping its members during tough times.

They’re doing it again this year with the Monster Mash Masquerade, which returns to the Dr. Phillips House on Oct. 28 (6-10 p.m.) for an evening of tastes, sips, smokes and live entertainment — costumes definitely encouraged.

“When COVID-19 shuttered the world, there was a void of information to the independents,” says Nicholas Oliveri, co-owner of Bites & Bubbles and co-founder of the RAPCF along with partner, Eddie Nickell. Both are past presidents of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“We had a lot of contacts in the industry, politically and in legal teams that were not readily available to the little guy. The FRLA does an amazing job, but they’re a large organization that is watching the industry as a whole, flying at 50,000 feet, watching, protecting and promoting the huge hospitality industry in the state.”

Oliveri and his partner wanted to bring some of these advantages to the local level.

“Mask-for-Aid was a way for restaurants to get out there in front of potential guests and make a little money while doing it.”

They’re doing it again this year — and local foodies and folks ready to get festive for the spooky season will sample eats from some of Orlando’s best-known eateries including Maxine’s on Shine, MX Taco, Island Time and more. Newcomers include Hawaiian hangout The 808 in Thornton Park.

Last year’s event came at a critical moment for Outpost Kitchen Bar & Provisions, says head chef/owner Julie Casey, noting that participation is special to her on a number of levels. At the time, the restaurant was in an odd sort of purgatory: The College Park location had already closed, but the expansive, new Maitland venue was not yet open.

“It was important to still be in front of consumers,” she says, to remind them that Outpost was still there. “It was also the first time I’ve been involved with a group of restaurants truly working together to help in each other’s successes and navigate the current environment and its headaches brought on by COVID.”

Last year, says Oliveri, the challenge was doing a socially distanced event amid the pandemic. The expansive outdoor space at the elegant and historic Dr. Phillips House fit the bill nicely.

“It’s the perfect setting for the Monster Mash Masquerade because of the rumors that the house is haunted,” says Oliveri, noting the home’s Victorian touches are transportive and well-suited for the season. “The expansive courtyard is set with all the food and beverage stations with stand-up tables throughout the courtyard and the main dining room in the house will be set up for guests who’d like to sit down inside.”

Up on the rooftop patio, the “Up in Smoke” lounge presented by Corona Cigar Company and Bites & Bubbles will feature a selection of cigars along with whiskey and tequila tastings. “Elevate Below” wine sampling, presented by Swirlery Wine Bar, will take place in the wine cellar of the mansion (10 guests at a time with time limits).

A DJ, along with live performances, will be keeping things lively and exciting all night long.

Tickets cost $100 each, with all proceeds going toward the continued recovery of participating RAPCF restaurants to cover the cost of staging the soiree.

Francesco Aiello, chef/owner of Francesco’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Maitland, is among those returning to the event. He’ll be bringing a fresh ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms in a goat cheese cream sauce, eggplant parmigiana and mixed olive bruschetta — along with his homemade meatballs, which were a hit at last year’s event.

“It’s always nice to help each other when we can,” says Aiello, who is grateful to regulars who helped with takeout orders at the height of lockdown and supports his fellow restaurateurs on his nights off.

“I try to go to every restaurant in my free time and make recommendations to my customers… This event is a great way to help restaurants get back on their feet and meet other chefs at the same time.”

More info: rapcf.org/monster-mash

Want to reach out? Find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @amydroo or on the OSFoodie Instagram account @orlando.foodie. Email: amthompson@orlandosentinel.com. For more fun, join the Let’s Eat, Orlando Facebook group or follow @fun.things.orlando on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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