For some reason the name Saporito sounds like it would be Japanese takeout place.
But, no, it’s an Italian restaurant, and a very pleasant one at that.
Or should I say a tasty one, for tasty is the translation of Saporito.
Remember the Slow Food Movement? It was buzzphrase about a dozen years ago. I wrote about it becoming a trend in Central Florida in 2007, though its origins can be traced back to 1986. In Italy, to be exact.
There is still a Slow Food organization and an Orlando convivium, or chapter, though the last entry on its Facebook page was in 2016. My guess is that people embraced the farm-to-table as their preferred buzzphrase.
But Saporito proudly embraces the Slow Food philosophy. And it’s not like we’re comparing organic apples to locally-grown oranges. A well-crafted red sauce by any other name would taste as luscious.
My dinner companion and I started our meal with the Arancini al Burro and Carpaccio di Manzo antipasti. The former were little croquettes fashioned out of saffron infused risotto with bits of Prosciutto di Parma blended in. The balls sat in a little puddle of red sauce and were sprinkled with cheese. I have to admit I didn’t get why burro — or butter — was part of the designation, but I liked them all the same.
The Carpaccio had thinly sliced raw manzo, or beef, (could have been burro, I suppose) served nontraditionally with horseradish cream and a not-fully-emulsified lemon emulsion under a stack of fresh and peppery arugula, making it all a sort of salad. I don’t think the lemon emulsion added much to it, but I loved the horseradish cream and greens.
For our secondi, we each chose a dish that we consider to be exemplars of a good Italian restaurant. For me it was the Lasagna alla Bolognese; my friend chose the Pollo alla Parmigiana.
A restaurant serving a lasagna that did not obviously come thawed from an aluminum pan container is a good beginning. Saporito’s went well beyond that, as any Slow Food proclaimer’s should. It was presented more in the style of a Romanesque lasagna, the sheets of pasta loosely layered on the plate with strati of seasoned ground beef and tomato sauce, plus a bit of bechamel for extra richness.
The parmigiana was as equally well done. The chicken cutlet was thicker than usual but the breading was light and well-crisped, a characteristic of a good parmigiana. It was heaped with melted mozzarella, slightly toasted from the broiler, and served in a bit of red sauce. It was served with a side of fettucine.
We both declared the restaurant had passed our Italian test markers.
Service was sincere but could use some guidance.
The atmosphere of Saporito is that of an Italian farmhouse, or as close as one can get to a farmhouse in a small strip mall storefront. Tables are bare wood with a bit of rustic look and chairs are metal. They’re not as uncomfortable as they look, but they don’t make you want to linger, either.
Which is unfortunate, because the food really does make you want to slow down and savor it.
Saporito is at 2759 Old Winter Garden Road, Ocoee. is is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-554-2100.