It was just a year ago that we visited Tiffany Deli, the entity that replaced the longtime Park Avenue deli called Brandywine. The experience was less than stellar, mainly a result of poor service.
Now the space is occupied by an Italian flavored delicatessen called Al Bacio— it means "a kiss" — and it's quite good, a vast improvement over the previous tenant (and the one before that, as far as I'm concerned).
Al Bacio has moved from the order-at-the-counter fast-casual concept of its predecessor to full service, something that is not immediately clear upon entering the bright and tidy space (it looks a little like a froufrou ice cream shop).
My companions each ordered the Capri salad, one with the added chicken option and one without. I chose the del chef panini based mainly on the menu description: "Artichoke and anchovy, emulsified with olive oil, mortadella with pistacchio and provolone cheese."
My sandwich did not taste of anchovy, and looking between the buns I could spot nothing I could identify as an artichoke. That said, I enjoyed the sandwich thoroughly. The meat was plentiful, and the mustardy spread (which may have been where the anchovy was hidden) was tangy and slightly hot. And the kitchen obviously understands the importance of the bread because the ciabatta roll was fresh with just the right chew factor. The sandwich came with some delicious waffle-cut sweet potato fries. I was very glad that my table mates liked them as much as I did because it prevented me from eating all of them myself.
The Capri salads were distinct by the large cherry tomatoes that had been filled with bocconcini, little "eggs" of mozzarella, so they looked like red deviled eggs. The salads also had a mesclun mix and sliced black olives with a bit of pesto. What was odd was that the chicken that was ordered as an add on for one of the salads was served as a flat cutlet on the liner plate next to the salad bowl rather than sliced or chopped and placed atop the greens. It looked strange, but my friend, ever resourceful, simply dumped the salad from the bowl onto the plate over the chicken, being sure to let as much of the rich olive oil drip onto the greens.
Service was better but certainly nothing that would be called polished or overly demonstrative. A man that I assumed was the chef and owner occasionally emerged from the kitchen to deliver food or to help clear a table and ask the guests how everything was.
That's just the sort of thing you need to do when you own a restaurant.
Al Bacio is at 505 Park Ave. N., Winter Park. Although the hours are not listed on the webpage, it is open for breakfast and lunch daily (closes at 6 p.m. early in the week, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday) and early dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-673-3354.