Your Hosts

Meet alFresco’s Founders: Lynn, Edwin, Melissa and Rob

The four of us have a collective 80+ years of experience in the restaurant business and met as collaborators at a local, four-diamond resort. We discovered that each of us grew up in a small town and shared a dream of opening a restaurant with a small-town feel and farm-to-table food.

We stumbled upon an opportunity in historic downtown Winter Garden … and the rest is history. Here’s a little history on our team …

Lynn Kasten

After earning my BS in Family and Consumer Sciences, specializing in Hotel and Restaurant Management, at Eastern Illinois University, I dove into the hospitality industry. I began as a restaurant supervisor, moving many times in and out of the U.S. to advance my career within a major hotel company. Ten years ago, I decided to plant my feet firmly in Central Florida by accepting a job as an assistant general manager of a fine-dining steakhouse in a four-diamond resort and ultimately, I worked my way up to Director of Food and Beverage. Throughout the past decade, I managed 11 award-winning restaurants such as a 140-seat, fine-dining steakhouse, a 300-seat seafood restaurant, a 90-seat sushi restaurant, a 110-seat Mexican cantina and room service for 1,406 guest rooms. I’m excited to apply the skills I’ve acquired and create an inviting and inspired dining experience for our alFresco guests.

Edwin Martinez

I started my career as a cook in a small restaurant in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for the culinary arts, so I attended the Caribbean Hospitality Institute. After graduation, I earned a position as chef de cuisine at a local restaurant and furthered my career as banquet chef at the top resort in Ponce, cooking meals for up to to 1,000 guests in a sitting. I moved to the States after being offered the role of banquet chef at the largest theme park company in Central Florida. For the past six years, I was a chef at a four-diamond resort in Central Florida, cooking for a 90-seat pool bar and grill, a 90-seat sushi restaurant and 1,406 guest rooms. Most recently, I served as executive chef of the resort’s 400-seat, Mediterranean restaurant. I look forward to sharing my culinary skills and connecting with our customers through alFresco’s open kitchen.

Melissa Gioia

I started out in food and beverage as many people do, as a college student waiting tables to pay the bills. I was bitten by the bug and more than 20 years later I still love what I do! My first 11 years in the industry, I studied the art of fine dining at two resort restaurants within the largest theme park company in Central Florida, progressing from server to trainer to lead. I then applied my skills as a key member of the opening training team for a food and beverage venue owned and operated by a legendary, oceanfront resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Since 2001, I’ve worked for a four-diamond resort in Central Florida, where I served as assistant general manager for a 140-seat, fine-dining steakhouse, a 400-seat Mediterranean restaurant and a 300-seat seafood restaurant. Most recently, I’ve managed resort restaurant sales, selling and contracting parties of up to 600 people. At alFresco, I am excited for our guests to experience how farm-fresh ingredients make a world of difference to the flavor of food.

Rob Gioia

I started out doing dishes at a resort in Catskill, New York. The owner saw my potential, let me take on prep work and at age 15, I was running the kitchen. After attending culinary school in upstate New York, I accepted an externship with the largest theme park company in Central Florida, where in eight years I grew from cook to Junior Sous Chef. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked for a four-diamond resort in Central Florida, where I served as executive chef of a 300-seat seafood restaurant, a 90-seat sushi restaurant and a 400-seat Mediterranean restaurant before accepting a role as restaurant general manager to hone my front-of-house skills. During my tenure, I was fortunate to spend one month working in the kitchen of a restaurant in Venice, Italy where all ingredients were supplied fresh by local farmers and fisherman (and no one spoke English!). Food was cooked to order, presentations were simple and the flavor of the food spoke for itself. This experience greatly influenced my style of cooking and the menu items you’ll enjoy at alFresco.

Our alFresco Team

We have built a phenomenal team of service and culinary professionals at alFresco, who share our passion for making great food and friends.

Our folks have an in-depth understanding of our menu, our philosophy on food, what makes a great meal, and the art of conversation. Want to know which wine will complement your entrée? How to prepare a menu item at home? The meaning of life? Just ask.

We show our team the love, so they’ll show you the love. We like to have a good time at work, so it doesn’t feel like work, and we invite you to join in the silliness.