In the realm of consumable hospitality there are two choices: food and drink. Some places excel at food; these are generally referred to as restaurants. Some are better with just the drinks; we call them bars.
In some cases both food and drink are proffered with equal deftness. You’ll usually find this quality in the hospitality venues we call restaurants. It is rare, though not unheard of, that a place that focuses on specializing in drinks, on being a bar can do good food.
And if you need an example of what I’m talking about, just visit Segafredo, a new business in the Mills Park development.
Segafredo Zanetti is an Italian coffee company, so it has the art of espresso and coffee down flat. That’s even more evidence that Orlando’s Segafredo is more bar than cafe. Anyone who has wandered the streets of an Italian town and wandered into a place with a neon “Bar” sign out front knows that that business is specializing in coffee, though it might sell alcohol and even food. But you go there for an espresso kick to get you through the morning, or the night, for that matter.
And there’s not a thing wrong with that. It’s when the business presents itself as something more that things get confusing. Blame it on Florida laws that push bars into selling more food along with the drinks, but Segafredo Orlando has no business trying to serve food, because it fails miserably.
My first visit was on a Friday evening following a theater outing at Orlando Shakes just up the road. It was a beautiful night, just right for the second floor outdoor patio, though a blasting dj-tended sound system kept it from being a serene one. That’s fine; one expects that sort of thing in a bar, which is what Segafredo is, even though it has a fairly extensive menu of appetizers, flatbreads, paninis, pastas, and main courses that include fish and steak options.
My companion and I ordered the polpette mozzarella flatbread and the orecchiette and sausage from the list of pasta dishes. The quality of both was absolutely miserable. The flatbread seemed as though it had been plucked from a vending machine of prepared frozen foods and quickly heated up. The sausage was as flavorless as the chewy pasta it had been plopped upon.
I returned the following week for a breakfast visit. Perhaps this coffee bar could do a better job with breakfast offerings, I thought. I hoped. But no. I ordered the croissant sandwich called, for some reason that eludes me, Down on the Farm. It included bacon, fontina cheese and something that the menu described as “omelette egg.” That turned out to be like the tamago that is served in sushi restaurants, an unnaturally square slice of something that quite possibly involved egg. I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that it was prepared someplace far, far away. The sandwich was served with something they've decided to call hash browns, accompanied by a demitasse of ketchup, apparently squeezed with haste so that the splatters were all over the cup. Nice presentation.
I won’t dwell on service, or the general lack of training, but I will say that I was impressed when my waiter at breakfast, who up to that point had not shown any initiative, offered when I was leaving to put my leftover coffee into a go cup. I appreciated the gesture.
The downstairs coffee bar resembles the kind you’d find in Italy, though perhaps three times as large. Besides the upstairs patio with its living room stylings, there are indoor and outdoor seating options downstairs as well.
And the coffee? The coffee was great. This place should really promote itself as a coffee bar.
Segafredo is at 1618 N. Mills Ave., Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, until 2 a.m. on weekends. The phone number is 407-930-6568.