I recently got a glimpse of a brand new restaurant that’s about to open and had a chance to taste some of the innovative dishes it will serve. It’s called Tony Roma’s and it will have its official debut in October.
I know, I know. Tony Roma’s has been around for, what, 45 years? But the brand, which is owned by Orlando based RomaCorp, was due for a refresh. (Because, 45 years.)
So the International Drive location has undergone a massive renovation that will serve as a global prototype (you can find Tony Roma’ses in 30 countries, so that’s about as global as you can get).
The refurbishment includes a spiffed up and brighter interior with a welcoming indoor/outdoor bar in the main room, and expanded patio dining that includes a corner fireplace and a commanding view of the Coca-Cola Eye.
The menu (see below) has been refreshed, too, with more than two dozen new items designed by executive chef Bob Gallagher. (Gallagher also oversees the culinary program at TR Fire Grill, RomaCorp’s newest brand, in Winter Park.) Tony Roma’s has always had the nickname “the Place for Ribs,” and that continues to be a specialty.
But now there are also such items as sliders, salads (both side and entree), seafood (including a new fish and chips entree) and innovative additions like Bison Meatballs (which probably aren’t what you’re thinking they are).
One very smart move, in my estimation, is the addition of a “Bones & Bites” section on the menu. Think of this sort of a tapas selection for people who don’t want a huge meal but still want to try some ribs and other classic fare.
I suggest you try the “Pastrami” Pork Ribs, a creative rendering of regular ribs to give them a pastrami-cure texture. (You can try a taste of them for $5 on the B&B menu and get a full rack if you like them.) They’re shown above with the Crispy Pork Ribs, another new rib treatment.
Bison Meatballs are made with meat from grass-fed bison and served with a spicy marinara and Asiago cheese shavings.
Chicken Lollipops are fashioned out of wings that have been “frenched” so the bone becomes a handy stick. They’re doused in a hot Buffalo sauce and served on coleslaw with blue cheese crumbles.
The Caesar Salad is one of the new entree-sized offerings.
Tony’s Half Pound N. Miami Burger is a blend of short rib, brisket, chuck and ground pork. It’s a good patty, but the bacon aioli is the secret ingredient puts it over the top.
Another new item is the Boneless Beef Short Rib, served with a red wine reduction sauce and accompanied by mashed potatoes and green beans.
Lamb Ribs are new, too, slathered with a sweet plum and tarragon tinged barbecue sauce.
If you were afraid that the Bones & Bites menu was indicating that Tony was going all small-portioned on you, desserts will set the record straight. The new offerings include Banana Cream Pie, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Seasonal Cobbler, and Crispy Brownie Bite Sundae, which is available in a Family Sized Serving, if you’re a family of 10.
By the way, there’s also a new bar menu and about 20 beers available on tap, including some local brews. There are eight new craft cocktails, but I was pretty satisfied with my Classic Romatini, made with Absolut and a dash of orange bitters.
The “new” and pleasantly improved Tony Roma’s is at 8560 International Drive, Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-248-0094. The official unveiling is Oct. 8, but I have a feeling if you stop in before that you’ll see the new kit and kaboodle already.