Texas Country Reporter featuring Lubbock staple Orlando’s this week

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:39 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Country Reporter is highlighting Lubbock staple Orlando’s and its Tex-Italian dishes on this week’s episode.

Orlando’s is the oldest full-service restaurant in Lubbock, with 58 years of rich history. David Cea, who grew up sleeping on makeshift beds in the restaurant while his parents worked, is now one of the co-owners.

David’s father, Mike Cea, made his way out west on his Harley Davidson from Brooklyn, New York, and eventually landed in Lubbock to open the restaurant. He started working at 11 years old and spent the next 20 years in the kitchen.

“Most of the recipes come from my great-great-grandparents that came over on the boat in 1918, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Orlando. And so, a lot of those recipes have been passed down through the years. Of course, we’ve tweaked them and added our own, but that’s where the basics came from,” Cea said.

Those tweaks include green chiles and habaneros, giving Orlando’s dishes their unique flavor.

“It’s not your traditional Italian food, it’s spicy Italian food and it’s been, that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful,” he said.

Cea jokes Orlando’s ‘overnight success’ took 58 years to achieve, with help from several partners like Loyd Turner, new expansions like the location on Indiana, the partnership with Caprock Cafe, and thousands of employees along the way.

“Natalie Maines waited tables here. I have a picture of her carrying spaghetti. She waited, this was her first job,” Cea said.

David is carrying on his father’s legacy and countless memories from every booth.

“Those connections and those relationships, they never go away, especially now, with social media, everything. They tell me all the time like hey, I went back in and sat in the booth where I met my wife, and where we sat in the booth where I proposed to my wife,” he said. “I hear that kind of stuff all the time about this store. So, there’s a lot of history in this store, a lot of history.”

Part of that history includes an employee who used to wash dishes, Brian Hawkins. Hawkins went on to work for a Lubbock TV station, and eventually become a videographer for Texas Country Reporter, where he’s been the past 30 years. Cea got to catch up with Hawkins and meet Bob and Kelli Phillips early last spring, when they filmed for this week’s episode.

“Oh my God, you know they were so much fun. Of course we had lunch, we had some beers, then dinner, we had some wine. and I got to know Bob and his wife and his crew really well. It was good to see Brian. I hadn’t seen Brian in years. It was a blast, it was a fun day, I really enjoyed it,” Cea said.

Texas Country Reporter is featuring Orlando’s Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on KCBD Newschannel 11.