Enzo's Hideaway

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hideaway interior

In terms of splashiness and go-for-the-awe design and decor, Enzo's Hideaway, from Patina Restaurant Group, offers much less than its sister restaurants at Disney Springs. Morimoto Asia has an opulent two-story dining room with elegant chandeliers; The Edison resides in what was supposed to have been an abandoned power producing facility, and Maria & Enzo's has the dramatic effect of a grand old airline terminal with large windows overlooking the lagoon.

Enzo's Hideaway has no windows and no double-height ceilings. It's dark and slightly dank and several of the walls are covered in graffiti. I enjoyed myself here more than at the others.

Which is not to say that I don't like the other restaurants; I do. But I think the absence of splash and distractions allows one to focus more on the food here. And the food here is really quite good.

Maria & Enzo's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Maria and Enzos balcony still

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.

Peppino's Organic Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Peppinos pizza

I've lost track of all of the restaurants that have tried to make a go of it in the little freestanding building at 2420 Curry Ford Road in Orlando. Little is the operative word there. The space is so small that it didn't provide enough seats to support most restaurant concepts. I don't think that most of the people considered the "butts in seats" calculation -- the number of customers that must be served each day -- that would be necessary to provide enough income to sustain a business.

And so there was a steady flow of hopeful new restaurants over the years, the majority of them Latino. When I started reviewing restaurants in Orlando, in 1988, it was International Cafe. That business moved -- to a larger space -- on Orange Avenue. It was called Cruzin' Crabs for a short time, and Señor Frogi even shorter (though that business may have complicated its chance for survival by choosing a name similar to a major chain's). La Fiesta Mexican Grill started there, too, before moving to a slightly larger space a couple of blocks down the road and then, last year, across the street to even larger digs. Butts in seats, people, butts in seats.

So when it was announced that the next business to move in would be a pizzeria, I thought brilliant, that's just the sort of restaurant that can work in such a space. Besides a potentially lower food cost, pizzerias are historically reliable for takeout business, which does not require a seat therein to put a butt.

But...

Tutto Italia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tutto pour

If you plan to head out to Epcot for the Candlelight Processional, or just to see the holiday decorations, you might want to consider having dinner at Tutto Italia in the Italy pavilion to add a little buon Natale.

Since the folks at Patina Restaurant Group took over the food operations at the pavilion, adding Via Napoli pizzeria and Tutto Gusto wine bar, the quality of the food has gone up considerably, making it one of the better dining destinations in the park. Executive chef Renzo Barcatta has added some new items for the winter menu and I was recently invited to taste them.

Sinatra's Ristorante

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Sinatra ext

I avoid restaurants on holidays. It's difficult to get a snapshot of how the restaurant usually does business. And by snapshot I mean both literally and figuratively: It isn't desirable to have a photo of a dining room decked out for Christmas in a review that will live throughout the year.

Or in the case of Sinatra's Ristorante, one staged for Halloween. Actually, I'm not so certain that it isn't always set for Halloween. After all, the restaurant is in Cassadaga, the unincoporated community also known as the Psychic Capital of the World. Halloween, it would seem, is a big deal here.

So much so that the usual rituals, and you may interpret that word any way you wish, aren't confined to Oct. 31, as I found out on Oct. 30, Halloween-een, apparently.

An appointment had taken me to DeLand, and with so few restaurants in that city open on Mondays -- including some that list that they're open daily -- I figured it was a good time to visit Sinatra's, not far away. I had been told it had good Italian food and that it featured piano music. I appreciate both, so I wended my way there after calling ahead to confirm that it was indeed open.

I should have known something was amiss when the person who answered the phone at the restaurant had to yell into the receiver to be heard over the background din. Still, I went on.

Nonno's Italian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Nonno exterior

When it was announced, in December, that Stefano LaCommare would be coming out of retirement to help out at his son’s restaurant, Nonno’s, many people were excited at the prospect of having him back in a kitchen.

The reality is even better: he’s back in the dining room.

LaCommare and his wife, Marie, have owned and operated several restaurants in the area over the last few decades. Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs was the most recent. A popular destination for families and lovers of uncomplicated cuisine, Stefano’s also became a workplace for the LaCommare’s children, including their son, Leonardo, or Leo.

So when they sold Stefano’s, in 2015, along with the name and the recipes, they declared themselves retired. Their daughter Antonella and her husband, Frank Paradiso, opened their own place, Antonella’s Pizzeria, in Winter Park.

Apparently Leo, who like his father is a cook, wanted his own restaurant, too, so he opened Nonno’s Italian Restaurant in Altamonte Springs. It is Stefano’s in almost every way except by name.

Maestro Cucina Napoletana

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Maestro pizza

Maestro Cucina Napoletana has opened in Winter Park, bringing an authentic Italian food option to Park Avenue.

Maestro is a partnership between Rosario Spagnolo of Terra Mia in Altamonte Springs (and many other local restaurants that I won’t list here but you can read about here) and Antonio Martino, a Brazilian businessman who owns five McDonald’s franchises there. Don’t let that give you pause; there’s nothing clownish about the food here.

The food is solidly good quality, the atmosphere cozy and comfortable, and the service accommodating.

Rome's Flavours

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Rome Flavours outside

It’s clear that Rome’s Flavours, a cafe just off Winter Park’s Park Avenue, pays extra special attention to the house-made pasta.

That was evident when I visited recently. Shortly after my guest and I were seated, a gentleman I assume is the owner invited a young woman and her party from another table to join him at the pasta-making station in the back of the small space. There he guided her — wearing plastic gloves — through the process of running the dough through the rollers of the electrically powered pasta machine to create smooth sheets of just the right thickness, then through the die rollers to cut it into the various widths that comprise the myriad pasta types. Finally the fettuccine, spaghetti, pappardelle or whatever were draped over wooden dowels to be dried a bit before a plunge into boiling water.

The Peppy Bistro

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Peppy interior

It could be peppier.

The Peppy Bistro has taken over the College Park space that for several years was the Mexican restaurant Paxia. And just to clear things up right away, the name does not connote an emotion but rather the name of the owner, Jerry Peppy.

It wants to be known as a fusion restaurant but we’ve discussed this before and I won’t go into it again. Suffice to say that it has Italian, Mediterranean and American dishes with a fajita thrown in for good measure and none of it fused.

Armando's College Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Armando interior

Armando’s, the Italian restaurant from Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, has opened a second location in College Park. It takes over the space in the Wellesley condominium building that most recently was occupied by Hangar Bar and Grille (and originally was Harmoni Market).

It would appear to be an immediate hit, if the crowd that was packed into it on a recent Friday is any indication. Tables were hard to come by for anyone not wanting to wait at least 40 minutes, and there was a pleasant thrum from the people throughout the large space who showed no interest in making the wait shorter.

My companion and I snagged two seats at the bar and looked over the extensive (and difficult to read) menu.