As I said in my recent column about my observations on my visit to Disney Springs, whose reawakening is ongoing, I was excited to have my first experience at a restaurant in months that didn’t involve foam clamshells, aluminum foil trays and plastic takeout sacks.
I had set a low bar.
After strolling around the Springs and considering the dining options – we had agreed that we would select a restaurant with outdoor dining – my companion and I decided on Terralina Crafted Italian, a restaurant whose food and service I’ve enjoyed in the past, especially since the talented Justin Plank took over as head chef.
We were only mildly disappointed to be shown to a table at the outdoor bar at the front of the building instead of at the back, which overlooks the lagoon. But we accepted the table and took a seat.
Disney Springs requires all staff and guests to wear protective face masks, except, of course, when eating and drinking. I thought it was a nice touch that our seater offered small paper bags in which to put our masks.
The wine list and food and drink menu are printed on standard sized sheets of paper that are meant to be discarded after one use. The layout of the menu is the same as before but there appeared to be fewer selections in each category. That’s to be expected given that restaurants are still operating at reduced capacity.
The bartender doubled as our server and brought us napkins (cloth with flatware rolled up inside), side plates and water, served in clear plastic tumblers. My glass of wine, however, was served in a real stem wineglass, a welcome bit of luxury.
We shared an appetizer of Calamari Fritti, a dish I haven’t ordered in months because it’s something that doesn’t travel well as takeout. It was some of the best fried squid I’ve had, tender ringlets with an impossibly delicate breading, hot and crispy. We hungrily devoured it and asked for more of the delicious chili-infused aioli dipping sauce.
My companion chose the Spaghetti Bolognese as an entree. The tomato and meat sauce was fashioned out of beef, pork and pancetta and was tinged with cream, all of it tossed with al dente pasta.
It was more satisfying than my Crafted Burger, which was disappointingly overcooked. As a courtesy to the server, I kept my mask on while ordering, so it’s quite possible that “medium rare” sounded like “medium well” through the muffle. But that’s what I got and it was more than a bit dry. And the potato bun didn’t help either. (Who ever thought potato buns were a good idea?) But I enjoyed the house-made potato chips generously sprinkled with salt and the pickles, too.
I would have sent the burger back but I’d already requested a napkin setup that didn’t have a hair on it and a replacement for the water tumbler with a gnat stuck on the inside – I didn’t want to get a reputation as a complainer.
And I recognize that the staff here – and at all restaurants currently open – are working under extreme conditions. It must be harrowing at times with their own wellbeing to consider.
Take for example the man who was sitting at the table closest to mine who got up, presumably to visit the restroom, and didn’t bother putting his mask back on. Just as he passed our table, he let out a loud, hacking and uncovered cough. It was annoying to us, also unmasked as we ate, but the staff at the restaurant have to put up with such oafs all day. How do you prepare for that?
And speaking of masks, when a gust of wind blew my companion’s off the table, a staffer saw it and brought two new masks for us that were stamped with the restaurant’s name. Very thoughtful – and great marketing!
My experiences at Terralina and Disney Springs in general suggest that a full reopening is not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of patience and a lot more time.
Terralina Crafted Italian is at Disney Springs. It is currently open noon to 8 p.m. daily. The phone number is 407-934-8888