Saporito Italian Restaurant & Bakery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Saporito interior

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.

Sette

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Sette exterior

Tasting Table is a collaboration between Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide and WFTV-Channel 9’s Inside Central Florida.

Sette, one of the year’s most anticipated restaurants, has opened in Ivanhoe Village. The reason for the excitement is that it is the first full-service restaurant from Trina Gregory-Propst and Va Propst, owners of the popular Se7en Bites bakery. It took over the space that was previously Stir Restaurant & Bar, NOVA and Elliott’s Public House. All of those were startlingly short lived, so most people still thing of it as the location of Brian’s, a popular greasy spoon.

Little has changed with the decor from the previous tenant, which is fine — it’s a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. The bar area seems a bit more accommodating, and the open kitchen allows guests to see the food being prepared.

And what good food it is.

Fiorenzo

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Fiorenzo19 decor2

Fiorenzo, the Hyatt Regency Orlando restaurant formerly known as Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, has emerged from its monthslong renovation. Even though it shortened its name, it is still Italian and you can still get a good steak.

But Italian steakhouse didn’t fit the restaurant’s new designation as an all-day restaurant. And there is a preconceived notion of what a steakhouse looks like.

And before the renovation, Fiorenzo lived up to that stereotype: it was dark and moody.

Fiorenzo19 decor3

That has changed. The space has been brightened and opened up, including at the entrance, which used to be behind a wall hidden from the lobby but now is fully visible with a lobby bar. George Wong Design did the renovation.

Chianti's Pizza and Pasta Longwood

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Chianti pizza

Chianti’s Pizza and Pasta, the charming trattoria that opened in Sanford in 2012, now has a second location in Longwood. It has taken over the space in the Longwood Village Shopping Center that had previously been Carmela’s of Brooklyn and a Sbarro. So the walls should be sufficiently Italianized by now.

Of the two food genres in its name, Chianti’s seems to be more proficient in the pizza format. During a recent lunch visit, a flog associate ordered the Chianti Supreme Pizza, which featured slices of pepperoni and bits of sausage with mushrooms, red and green peppers and just enough mozzarella to give it some stringiness, all on a platform of a seasoned-just-right tomato sauce. The crust was just the right thickness, not too thin and crackerlike and not too thick and doughy. The edges of the crust had a decent char. And the 12-inch size is available as a lunch special for $8.99 with a beverage, to boot, a good deal for such a good quality pizza.

Tre Bambine

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trebambine interior

I don’t suppose that technically there’s an absolute, written in stone recipe for Saltimbocca. After all, the word means “jump in the mouth” in Italian, and you could probably name a number of ingredients that you might like to have saltim your bocca.

But generally, in Italian restaurants, saltimbocca usually refers to a specific preparation, though even that is open to variations. I’ve had veal saltimbocca and I’ve had chicken saltimbocca. But until I visited Tre Bambine, a new restaurant in the former Spice Modern/Lake Eola Yacht Club space, I had never had meatloaf saltimbocca.

Mind you, it was veal meatloaf, but still. This culinary interpretation was completely lost in the translation.

Pizza Ponte

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Ponte sandwiches

It’s fun to have a place like Disney Springs to take visitors to, just to walk around and gawk.

There’s the majestic expansiveness of Morimoto Asia and Maria & Enzo’s, the jaw-dropping emersiveness of Planet Hollywood’s observatory-like projections, and the amusement of watching cars drive into the lagoon next to the Boathouse. The Edison has all sorts of distractions, Raglan Road is always a foot-stomping good time and Wine Bar George is great for a sip and a nosh.

And all are good places to dine, too.

But following a quiet cocktail in the underground lair of Enzo’s Hideaway (plus a nosh of some delicious Meatball Sliders), my visitors and I thought we’d just get a quick bite for dinner at Pizza Ponte just upstairs. I had never eaten at the little quick-serve next to the entrance to Maria & Enzo’s, and a slice of pizza sounded just right.

I was surprised to find that while one can indeed get a slice of pie — and delicious pie at that — one may also find some really good sandwiches.

F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen

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FD Italian bar

I counted myself among the skeptics when it was announced that a developer planned to revitalize the area at Curry Ford Road and Bumby Avenue with new restaurants, brewpubs and other boutique businesses, unofficially dubbing it the Hourglass District. There was encouragement when Claddagh Cottage relocated the popular Irish Pub to one of the blocks. And a Foxtail Coffee bar moved into a small strip mall, but heck, Foxtail seems to be following a Starbuckian business model with plans to put them everywhere.

And there were initial signs of hope when a pizza restaurant, Peppino’s Organic Italian Pizzeria & Kitchen moved into a freestanding building that had been home to a long line of short-lived culinary concepts, most of them Latin American focused, that couldn’t make the inexpensive menu and low number of seats a successful combination. A pizzeria made sense because it supplement its dine-in business with takeout or even delivery.

But Peppino’s closed faster than many of those Latin restaurants — less than six months — due, I’m told, to the owner’s health (though mediocre food and stunningly dismissive service didn’t bode well for its longevity).

Then the people at F&D Kitchen in Lake Mary announced they would take it over, also with a pizza concept. I was skeptical again. My experiences with F&D have been mixed. The original F&D Kitchen brought only a shrug. I had a wholly unpleasant experience at its Mexican concept, F&D Cantina, when it first opened in Waterford Lakes, but then quite enjoyed the food, service and surroundings of its second location, also in Lake Mary. (The original Cantina closed.)

So what would I find at F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen? A cozy atmosphere, an exuberant staff, and a well-thought-out Italian menu that goes beyond basic pizza with pastas and even full entrees.

Rocco's Italian Grille & Bar

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Roccos bar

Ever since I first reviewed Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar, in October of 2006, I’ve considered it to be one of the finest Italian restaurants in the area. And since I don’t get the chance to return often enough, I jumped at the invitation to dine there recently to try some of the dishes that owner Rocco Potami rotates through his menu.

Roccos burrata1

Potami started by serving my guest and me an appetizer of Bresaola, the air-cured beef that is a specialty of Northwest Italian, and fresh Burrata, often known as a creamier mozzarella. The cheese was topped with shaved Parmesan and fresh arugula leaves. Potami admonished us not to put any pepper on the burrata, which I probably would have done to perk up the mild cheese. But with the peppery notes of the arugula, nothing else was necessary.

Stasio's Italian Deli & Market

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Stasio exterior

I sort of get the impression that Stasio's Italian Deli & Market is a work in progress and that the people doing the work aren't exactly sure themselves what the final product will be.

But for all the tentativeness in the air, the food that I've sampled so far is solidly good.

I dropped in for an order to go because one of the things that is still uncertain is whether Stasio's wants people to dine in. There's a marble ledge at the windows for people to eat at, and a couple of outdoor tables. But it definitely isn't a linger-over-dinner spot.

Stasio interior

The menu is mainly sandwiches, though a couple of hot items, including a baked ziti dish, were pointed out to me at the counter, which is where one places an order. I chose the sandwich named after the place and another called The Package.

Terralina Crafted Italian

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Terralina exterior

When we talk about the top chefs in the Central Florida culinary community, the name Justin Plank rarely comes up, and I don't know why. I may be as much to blame as anyone.

It's not that he hasn't been around a long time or that his cooking hasn't been critically received. And it isn't that his name hasn't been bandied about. You may recall that in the early 2000s, Park Plaza Gardens actually changed its name to Chef Justin's Park Plaza Gardens to celebrate the hiring of Plank as its new head chef.

Following a stint at Lake Port Square in Leesburg, Plank joined the Levy Restaurants team as the executive chef at Disney Springs' Portobello, handpicked for the position by Tony Mantuano, the Chicago chef who advises and directs the Disney restaurant. Portobello then promptly closed so that it could be remodeled and rebranded.

It's now Terralina Crafted Italian and Plank has stayed on at the helm. While much of the menu was initially developed by Mantuano, Plank says that his suggestions for changes have all been given the go ahead. I stopped in to sample some of the menu recently and to see how the restaurant has developed. Everything I tasted -- some of which was offered to me and my guest to try -- was really quite good.

Watch the video version of this review: