Tartini, the “Pizza & Spaghetteria” in the unofficially designated SoSoDo district, near Belle Isle on South Orange Avenue, has gone through several changes in its nine years, including ownership and, at one point in 2016, a closing.
But today, Tartini is back and serving some of the best Italian food around, and not just in this culinarily starved part of town but in all of Orlando.
The Pizza & Spaghetteria part of its name doesn’t quite give a full accounting of the menu here, though pizza is still a forte, as it always was, thanks to its unique oven that rotates and lifts the pies through the wood-fired heat to create a perfect pizza in under two minutes.
And yes, there is a Spaghetti & Meatballs entree. But chef Alvaro Ramirez’s menu goes much further, with many other Italian classics and more than a few creative touches.
Such as his Chef’s Bruschettas, which are so much more than your basic chopped tomatoes and garlic. Ramirez tops his crostinis with a smear of tangy goat cheese and fresh arugula, a generous slice of prosciutto, grilled peaches and house-made balsamic spheres that look like plump fish eggs and pop with flavor. Each bite was a treat.
One of my dinner guests chose the Cartoccio, one of two dishes that Ramirez considers the restaurant’s signature dishes (the other is Pasta all Ruota, noodles tossed in a cheese wheel flamed with brandy). Al cartoccio is the term for an entree prepared en papillote, or in parchment. But instead of parchment, he uses aluminum foil sculpted into the shape of a swan with wood embers flaming in its tail. Inside was fettuccine mixed with shrimp (chicken and beef are also options), vegetables and myriad seasonings. Deliciously firm shrimp and wonderful flavors.
Another dining companion chose the Chef’s Risotto, which had an ample amount of chicken, mushrooms and a drizzling of truffle oil. The nutty-textured rice was bathed in creaminess.
I went the pizza route, choosing the Aurgula & Prosciutto, which also had kalamata olives and mushrooms on a light tomato sauce base with both mozzarella and feta cheeses. The crust was nice and chewy, and the titular ingredients, added after cooking, added depth, especially the spicy arugula.
The staff was friendly and efficient, even with a full dining room and the added duties of performing some tableside service. (Once someone sees that big wheel of cheese and the flaming brandy everybody wants to order it.) Besides Ramirez, Tartini is owned by Oleksandr Nechyporenko, a native of Ukraine.
Tartini’s dining room is open and nicely appointed. There is a wall of horizontal wine bottles and another wall of stacked fieldstone. Booths, tables and banquettes provide ample seating. The pizza oven isn’t as visible as it once was, and if I was to have one niggle it would be that the paper napkins don’t quite match the quality of the rest of the dining experience.
I liked Tartini when it first opened; I like it even more now. Many people have recently found Tartini because of media articles that noted Nechyporenko’s ties to Ukraine and visited the restaurant to show support. That’s admirable, but it’s an exceptional restaurant that deserves your attention regardless.