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.
And as meatloaf goes, it was good. It had a dense texture that I prefer in my loaves of meat, with a nice bit of charred crust. Thankfully, it was not pounded with a mallet, as one would do for conventional saltimbocca. If it was wrapped in prosciutto, it went unnoticed by me, but the sage gravy at least gave it that traditional note. And the cipollini onions were nice.
But even odder than the meatloaf was what accompanied it: a handful of dry, crumbled croutons set to one side of the plate. To give yourself an idea of what this was like, grab a bag of Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix and pour some out onto a plate and nibble away. I can’t imagine there was not a point during menu testing that someone didn’t take a look at this dish and ask, “What the hell’s up with the dried bread crumbs?”
But that dish was the only one that had me shaking my head. I quite enjoyed the Steak and Gorgonzola Flatbread that my companion and I shared as an appetizer. The crust was more substantial than pizza dough, appropriately so, and had a nice slather of cheese topped with chewy bits of steak and roasted red peppers. The gorgonzola gave it a tangy and salty smack.
My friend ordered the Isabella Fruitti di Mare entree, which included squid ink tagliatelle tossed with a light cream sauce tinged with tomato. Little mini crab cakes, sea scallops, big, firm shrimp and mussels were thrown in. All of it was delicious, but I could have eaten a whole bowl of the pasta alone.
Tre Bambine (say tray bam-BEE-nay — it means three babies, and no, I don’t have further information on that) calls itself a “modern Italian bàcaro.” Bàcaro is a Venetian term that refers to an osteria or tavern. Tre Bambine’s prefers to call it a dive, though I’m not sure that’s an apt description. The space is austere, with stained concrete floors, exposed ductwork overhead and walls dominated by white subway tiles. Modern I’ll give it, urban even. But the designation of a dive is one that must be earned.
This address’s strong point has always been the lakefront patio. Too cool to sit outside on the night I visited, we compromised with a seat at the bar that allowed us to see the fountain. We were well tended to by the bartending staff.
I’ll definitely return to Tre Bambine, hopefully before they have to change the name to Quattro Bambine. And it will be easy to find my way back: I left a trail of breadcrumbs.
Tre Bambine is at 407 E. Central Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-753-7333.