I stopped in for dinner at Enzo's on the Lake in Longwood the other evening. It was the first time I'd dined there since Enzo Perlini died in October 2006. I hadn't really expected to see much change. After all, Perlini had pretty much turned over operations to his ex-wife, Joann Ross, after he became ill and, for a time, returned to Rome. She was doing a fine job when I last visited for a review in the Orlando Sentinel in 2005. Here are my latest observations...
Enzo's is situated in an old converted house on the shores of Lake Fairy. The old house is showing some age, but then aren't we all. Still, it would benefit from a little sprucing up. (And, again, wouldn't we all.)
The food is still first-rate, however. My dinner companions and I started with the antipasti, a platter of assorted goodies that our server culled from the table at the back of the main dining room. (Note: you are not allowed to go to the table to collect your own selections; it's not a buffet.) There were wonderful roasted peppers, olives and tangy cheese.
We followed with an arugula salad -- rocket salad, the Italians call it -- with a light vinaigrette.
Snapper was the feature of the main course, a slightly soft fillet but nicely grilled and dressed with oil and capers. We also enjoyed a side of pasta in a light cream sauce.
Other favorites remain on the menu. I've always been a fan of the bucatini alla Enzo, which features fat, hollow pasta tossed tableside with prosciutto, peas, bacon and mushrooms, all topped off with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. And the costaletta di vitello is about as good a veal chop as you're likely to find in the town, grilled to perfection and finished with butter and just the slightest waft of truffle essence.
And the abbachio del duca, delicate lamp pops stuffed with siitake mushrooms and fresh herbs, is a real treat.
When dessert rolls around, and if you're not rolling around too much yourself by then, go for the tiramisu.
Enzo's has been around a long time now. It's another testament to the growing sophistication of Central Florida's diners. When it first opened, locals didn't understand that what Perlini was serving was authentic Italian fare -- most wanted to know where the spaghetti and tomato sauce or manicotti were. (They were in the Americanized chain restaurant down the street.) Slowly, Central Floridians came to embrace true Italian food. Now it can be found in dozens of local Italian restaurants, and many do it quite well.
But few do it as well as Enzo's did, and still does.