I imagine that Ravalia’s could build a loyal base of regular customers just with the warm and welcoming way in which the staff greets everyone regardless of whether the food is any good. Which, I should mention, it is. If there are any obstacles to its success, they might include the location, in a two-story strip of businesses along U.S. Highway 17-92 in Casselberry, and an atmosphere that is more akin to a chain sandwich shop than a place that prides itself on its freshly made pasta and Tuscan recipes.
I met a friend recently for lunch, apologizing for being late because I hadn’t realized how far north the address was. My friend had spent the time chatting with the owner and was already charmed, not only with the owner’s graciousness and passion but also with the obvious freshness of the ingredients, including the freshly made pastas.
We started with Mediterranean pork roast schiacciate, which was presented as a sort of calzone alternative. Schiacciate is a sort of flat bread, but instead of serving it pizza-like, Ravalia’s folds it over so the “toppings” are inside. Actually it’s less like a calzone than a quesadilla, except with a crispier, more cracker-like crust. And even with the red onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and roast pork chunks, it wasn’t too filling.
For an entree, we had a baked pasta dish that featured penne with a flavorful tomato sauce and bits of Italian sausage. I had ordered the dish made with spaghetti, but instead of telling me they were out of spaghetti, they just brought the penne. When I brought this up with the owner, she couldn’t have been more apologetic, offering to replace the dish -- which I declined -- and insisting that we have some gelato for dessert -- which I accepted. (And it was delicious.)
Ravalia’s food would be at home on earthenware plates in a restaurant with checkered tablecloths. It loses some allure served on plastic atop laminated tables in the presence of soda dispensers. But only the allure; none of the flavor. And considering the prices -- in the $6, $7 and $8 range for almost everything on the menu -- I can do without the tablecloths.
Ravalia’s is at 3950 U.S. Highway 17-92, Casselberry (it’s just north of the Target complex and on the same side of the road). It’s open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Here’s a link to ravalias.com. The phone number is 407-571-9912.