I wasn’t expecting to find what I found when I visited Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria.
Let’s face it, the area south of Le Coq au Vin to roughly, oh, Miami isn’t exactly known as a mecca for trendy restaurants. One can certainly find some acceptable food options -- don’t press me on that just now -- but good food in a pleasant, almost upscale atmosphere is rare. But that’s what Tartini offers.
A good deal of its appeal begins in the parking lot, where uplights accentuate the trunks of tall palm trees. The exterior of the building -- formerly a photo supply shop, I was told -- has clean lines and a cool appearance in its brick facade with a wood grid trellis overhead.
Inside, the walls have stacked blocks or horizontal wine racks, the floors are a shiny stained concrete, and the lighting is both sufficient to read the menu yet moody and dramatic. One of the most thoughtful design touches is the banquette that separates the main dining area and the bar/lounge. It is low so that the sight line isn’t obstructed (and no one is made to stare at a wall through dinner), and along the low divider are tall glass vases lit from below. Across the room there is a warm glow from the wood-burning oven.
Some wonderful pizzas come out of that oven, which, the owner told me when I stepped up for a closer look, is the only of its kind in the U.S. I can’t verify that, but I can tell you that I haven’t seen one quite like it. What makes it unique is the stone surface, which is a large, thick turntable that not only spins but also rises and falls, lifting the pizza dough through the hot air. A pizza can be fully cooked, the owner told me, in a minute and 25 seconds.
I ordered the Tartini pizza -- I always figure if a chef names a dish after the restaurant it should be a pretty good one. It was. It featured salami, prosciutto, pepperoni and buffalo mozzarella, all in ample but not overwhelming proportions, and all sitting atop a near perfect crust, crisped slightly with good elasticity in the dough and with a delightful buttery taste.
My companion had the pasta carbonara, which had a sufficiently creamy sauce coating the al dente fettuccine, and lots of bits of pancetta. It was quite edible, and yet something in the seasoning seemed to be missing. A simple dash of salt and pepper helped a lot.
Service was good if a bit too rote. Our server seemed to want things to proceed via his routine at the beginning rather than letting us drive dinner, but he came around and was fine. I appreciated the greeting we received when we entered and the thanks when we left.
As a bright spot in a restaurant wasteland, Tartini deserves to do well.
Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria is at 6327 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. My 10-inch Tartini pizza was $13.25 and it was enough for two people to eat. The carbonara was $12.25. Here is a link to tartinipizzeria.com. The phone number is 407-601-2400.