College Park and Adriatico are a perfect match. The Orlando neighborhood certainly has some good, or good enough, restaurants. But it’s been missing a quaint trattoria, the sort of Italian place with a mom-and-pop feel, one that’s comfortable, homey and immediately familiar. A welcoming spot where the food is good but beside the point.
The “mom and pop” owners are Marco and Rosetta Cudazzo. She runs the dining room, greeting guests with a matronly welcome, and he does the cooking, demonstrating the skills he most recently plied at the estimable Terramia, a multiple Foodie winner, and at Antonio’s La Fiamma in Maitland before that.
Not everything here is perfect, but much of it is quite good. It’s the kind of food that causes strangers to speak to one another (well, the tables are so close together that cross-table communication is easy) and make recommendations.
That was the case on my first visit. As I sat reading through the dinner menu I heard a voice nearby ask if I like risotto. I looked up to see if a waiter was speaking, but it was the gentleman dining at the next table with his wife. He asked again and I admitted that I do indeed like risotto. It’s wonderful here, he said.
I found the listing on the menu, risotto all pescatore ($20.50), arborio rice with mixed fresh seafood in a light tomato broth. I saw no reason to look any further.
Unfortunately the risotto was the only thing I tasted in all of my visits that was a total failure. The rice tasted as though it had been boiled, and too long at that. And the seafood seemed to have been added at the finish, plopped on top of the rice with sauce.
By then the couple had left, but if I should see them again I would suggest they try the scallopine alla Sienese ($21.50), two tender medallions sauteed in white wine and butter, topped with a thin slice of prosciutto di Parma and melted fontina cheese, served with fresh sauteed spinach.
Or the pollo al limone ($10.50) that I had on a luncheon visit. A simple dish, it featured two pounded chicken breasts in a thick and rich sauce that was both buttery and tangy from the lemon juice and the piquant capers that topped the meat.
And penne boscaiola ($9.50), another lunch choice, with large tubes sauteed with chicken and wild mushrooms with prosciutto and tomatoes. The chicke was tender, tasting as though it had been poached, and the mushrooms had a wonderful fatty mouthfeel.
I would counsel against the swordfish ($24.50) I had as a special one evening. The preparation was good, with cherry tomatoes and basil in a creamy sauce. But the fish was overcooked, and with such a thin fillet how could it have been anything else?
I could have made a meal of the capesante alla mostarda appetizer ($12.50), three huge scallops sauteed with shallots and brandy in a creamy sauce tinged with a touch of mustard, served over fresh spinach. One could want little more when the appetizer is this good.
The classico antipasto misto ($14.50) was a thoughtful selection of salami, prosciutto, cubes of hard parmesan, roasted peppers, baby artichokes and a handful of some of the tastiest green olives you’re likely to find.
Desserts seem an afterthought, with tiramisu the only in-house preparation. But it was a good tiramisu ($6), creamy and delicious. A chocolate pyramid ($7) satisfied the sweet tooth of my companion.
Service was amiable, accommodating and professional. All showed good menu and wine list knowledge.
Adriatico occupies a small, intimate space. Walls are brick on one side and fieldstone-arched mirrors on another. I liked the touch of moss growing between the stones. Tables are covered with crisp white linens, even at lunch, and soft lighting is complemented by the vocal stylings of Sinatra, Bennett, Martin and others.
Adriatico may not be perfect, but I think if I lived in College Park I’d find myself strolling that way often, just because it’s the sort of place you want to be.