The restaurants listed in the poll below have advanced from the nominating phase and are the finalists for Best Italian in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

You may vote for only one restaurant, and please vote just once.

After placing your vote, leave a comment below telling us why you like your selection (be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in you comment otherwise we won't know which one you're talking about). We may use your comments when we announce the winners.

Please note: All the votes received during the nominating phase have been zeroed out. You must vote in the finals for your choice to count.

Voting ends Nov. 7. The Winners will be announced in the Nov. 8 edition of Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide's eletter. To subscribe, text SJO to 66866.


Jinya black

With the popularity of ramen at a height, it was only a matter of time before we'd see a chain noodle its way into town. It happened with Vietnamese, it's happening with poke, so why not ramen?

Jinya Ramen Bar is the company with a new franchise in Orlando, its first in Florida (oddly, the website lists the names of the cities for locations in other states but the Florida listing is Thornton Park). It took over and remodeled that space in Thornton Park Central that had briefly been Verde Cantina and, before that, a Tijuana Flats.

Jinya kitchen 1

As with many chain operations, Jinya's corporate connections bring advantages and disadvantages. It brought money to turn the space into a moody urban noodle bar with an open kitchen inside the front door, a central bar with seating on three sides, and a sunken dining room at the back.

Nothing I sampled at Jinya on my two visits was less than acceptable. Some things were delightfully better than I expected, some less so.



TODP Facebook Header18 copy

It's time for a Taste of Dr. Phillips. No, not the actual person; that wouldn't be palatable.

We're talking about the area of Orlando known as Dr. Phillips, which as you know incorporates Sand Lake Road's Restaurant Row. And with so many good restaurants in the area (if there weren't I wouldn't have dubbed it Restaurant Row in 1995), a Taste of Dr. Phillips starts to sound a lot tastier.

This will be the 12th annual ToDP, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips Foundation, Inc. It takes place on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Dellagio, which is a terrific venue for an event like this.

This, of course, is a walkabout event where attendees, um, walkabout and visit the various restaurant cooking stations. Our friends from Big Fin Seafood Kitchen and The Whiskey are among this year's participants.

They'll be joined by such estimable names as Eddie V's, Roy's Hawaiian Fusion, Pharmacy, Slate, Seasons 52, Peperoncino Cucina, Vines Grill and Wine Bar, Capital Grille, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, Urbain 40, Dragonfly Sushi and more.

And there will also be wine and beer to go along with all the tasty food. Also, a silent auction will be involved.

Tickets are just $75 per person with proceeds going to the many local charities supported by Dr. Phillips Rotary. You can find out more details and purchase your tickets at the official 2018 Taste of Dr. Phillips website.


Swine and Sons

The For Lease sign in front of the building on Fairbanks Avenue that houses Swine & Sons is officially for the space next to the Ravenous Pig offspring.

But I've learned that Swine & Sons, too, is expected to move out of the space sometime next year. The issue, I'm told, is that the sandwich, charcuterie and provisions market has outgrown the small space. It would prefer something that would allow it to continue to function as a dine-in eatery but also allow for an expansion of catering operations. And parking is a problem, though it is located across from Ravenous Pig's parking lot. Swine & Sons opened in April 2015.

No specific location has been chosen, though Baldwin Park and downtown Orlando are being looked at. Specifically, a location within the downtown dining district that would allow a smaller restaurant to offer a full liquor bar is being considered.

But the owners would rather find something closer to turnkey, or at least a space that has previously been a restaurant.

So if you know of any spaces available, you might want to let either the Swine or any of the Sons know about it. Do NOT suggest the recently vacated El Buda space in Church Street Station -- these people are much too smart to consider that a viable location.


Muzzarella pizza

This is good pizza. No, this is very good pizza. Dare I commit to say that this is the best pizza in town? I'll need more research, but it's certainly among the best.

It's Muzzarella Pizza and Italian Kitchen on Lake Underhill Road just past Goldenrod Road on the east side of town.

Muzzarella dining

It's a small storefront operation with an open kitchen at the front where pies are displayed in clear cases, just as you might find in a New York pie shop, and a small dining area down one side of the narrow space.

I had called in an order to pick up, a pizza called Assisis, which had sausage, bacon, meatballs and pepperoni. I suppose it got its name from the saint, who also loved animals, though I don't know if he had them on pizza (though he was Italian, after all). I also ordered a Meatball Sub and a cup of Pasta Fagioli.