Terralina Crafted Italian

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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:

Antonio's House of Pizza

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Antonios House interior

I sometimes feel that navigating all the restaurants with Antonio in their names is like playing a pizza version of Where's Waldo. By my count, there's a pizzaiolo's dozen of eateries named Antonio, and that doesn't count the one's named Anthony's.

Add now to the list Antonio's House of Pizza, the new, though not original name for the business that was Maestro Cucina Napoletana. Maestro, you may recall, was a project of longtime area restaurateur Rosario Spagnolo (Terramia) and business parther Antonio Martino. (Maybe there's a law that all pizzeria must have an Antonio involved.) Maestro opened in late 2016; Spagnolo sold it a year and a half later because he did not see a way to scale the business and open others, which was his original plan.

And yes, the new owner is named Antonio. Well, he goes by Anthony. Zeka is his last name, and he owns the Park Avenue restaurant with his wife, Sandra Valencia. (The two of them are responsible for two other pizzerias Antonio's.)

Enzo's on the Lake

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Enzo sign

Photos from Enzo's on the Lake website.

I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our classic restaurants, venerable dining spots that have withstood the vagaries of the industry and the fickleness of the public to endure and even thrive. Today: Enzo's on the Lake.

Enzo Perlini opened the restaurant in 1980 along with his then wife Jo Anne. They bought a private home on Lake Fairy and converted it from a house to a restaurant. The couple divorced in 2000 but they remained business partners. When Perlini was diagnosed with leukemia, he relinquished day to day operations to Jo Anne. Perlini died in 2006 at the age of 61.

Jo Anne is still at the Longwood restaurant. So are a lot of servers who have been working there for decades. And Enzo's has maintained a loyal base of customers, many of who drive great distances to dine there. When I wrote Perlini's obituary for the Orlando Sentinel, I quoted a couple who said they drove to Longwood every weekend from Daytona Beach just to dine at Enzo's on the Lake.

Pannullo's Italian Restaurant

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Pannullo interior

This seems to be the year of milestones, at least for area restaurants. Beefy King, of course, is getting a lot of attention, as it should, for hitting the half century mark. And Christner's Prime Steak & Lobsters has been touted for its 25 year anniversary, even though the first 20 were as Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobsters.

Quietly, Pannullo's Italian Restaurant is also celebrating its silver anniversary at its Park Avenue address. It's not the oldest along the avenue -- Cafe de France and Briarpatch outdate it -- but its 25-year achievement is worth noting.

Also worth noting: It may have been 25 years since I last dined there, or pretty close. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but knowing of the anniversary and needing a place to meet a friend for lunch, I decided to stop in.

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.