Grand is a word that might come to mind when you enter Maria & Enzo's Ristorante, one of a few new dining venues that opened recently at Disney Springs.
Although guests enter the building from street level (or walkway level, as the case may be), they walk past the host stand to discover themselves standing on a mezzanine overlooking the vast dining room below, accessed by a sweeping staircase. The far wall is comprised of two-story floor to ceiling windows with a commanding view of the lagoon outside. It reminds me a little of the opulence of La Coquina, the late lamented fine dining venue at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, but on a larger scale. It's among the most impressive dining venues in Central Florida.
(Click the video below to get a closer look at the dining room, as seen at an opening ceremony.)
But only actors eat the scenery. Luckily, the food is more toothsome.
I met a friend recently for a casual lunch. We started with an appetizer of Calamari, tender ringlets of squid with delicate jackets fried just so. Served with a spicy marinara and creamy aioli for your dipping pleasure (I preferred the latter.)
We also had the Prosciutto di Parma, the wonderful ham, in paper thin slices, cured in the air of Parma, which gives it its distinct perfume.
For my entree I had the Tuna, an ahi steak, grilled perfectly, served with a pesto with pistachios instead of pignoli.
My companion had the Swordfish, similary grilled and plated but with a sauce of salmoriglio, a specialty of Southern Italy made with parsley, oregano, olive oil and lemon juice, sort of an Italian chimichurri.
Both fish were delicioso and both were accompanied by roasted vegetables that included cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots and fingerling potatoes. Oh, and not to be dismissed is the wonderful basket of bread served at the beginning of the meal. Most people go gaga for the slender breadsticks in the paper sleeves -- I'll trade mine for your doughy Italian style bread.
Service was first rate -- most of the staff is comprised of young men and women from Italy.
The motif of the decor is that of an old airline terminal. The backstory that is required for all restaurants at Disney Springs is that the owners -- that would be Maria and her husband, Enzo -- converted the terminal to a restaurant after Orlando International Airport opened and essentially killed the seaplane business (I'm extrapolating some of the details).
One doesn't really need a cockamamie story to enjoy Maria & Enzo's. The food is good, and the surroundings will make you feel like you're in first class.
Maria & Enzo's Ristorante is at Disney Springs, 1560 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-560-8466.
Maria & Enzo's is operated by Patina Group, which also has the restaruants at the Italy pavilion in Epcot as well as the Disney Springs restaurants Morimoto Asia, the Edison and Enzo's Hideaway. I'll have my review of the latter soon.