Takeout Review: Prato

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Prato togo ext

They’re four of the saddest words one can hear when ordering takeout from Prato: We’re out of meatballs.

Those delicious orbs are my go-to item to order when dining in and I really wanted some to go. But the young woman who answered the phone blurted them out before I could say anything, leaving me slightly crestfallen.

So I had to adjust on the fly. Luckily, my other must-have item, the Widowmaker pizza (perhaps we can come up with a new name for this one) was available. I also got an order of the Mustard Spaghettini Cacio e Pepe.

And because it was a Friday evening, and I was distraught about the meatball shortage, I thought I would splurge on an Old Fashioned cocktail. I thought $22 for a cocktail was a bit much but, like I said, it was a Friday.

Takeout Review: American Social

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Amso togo exterior

There were a couple of nice surprises with my takeout at American Social, the still-new sports bar and restaurant on Sand Lake Road.

The first surprise was a 20 percent discount for picking the order up at curbside and not having it delivered through a third party app service. As you may – and should – know, most of the gig delivery operations take 30 percent of the restaurant’s billing. So it’s nice that AmSo shares some of that savings with the customers.

Takeout Review: Taverna Opa and Tapa Toro

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tapa takeout pickup

Two of my favorite International Drive restaurants, Taverna Opa and Tapa Toro have reopened after being closed a month and are offering curbside pickup from the menus of both restaurants out of the Tapa Toro space.

That’s good news to anyone who can’t decide between Greek and Spanish – now you can have both.

I placed a phone order as soon as I heard the restaurants were back open. I requested an appetizer of Spanish Tortilla from the Tapa menu and entrees of Kleftiko and Pastitsio from Taverna’s menu.

Tapa Toro is located at Icon Park, under the Ferris wheel. A table and tent has been set up near the driveway in the center of the complex, within view of the restaurant but far enough away as to discourage anyone from going inside. So customers just need to pull up to the tent, call inside and let them know you’re there for your order. When it’s ready, someone will bring it out to you. And if you do as I did and authorize payment with gratuity on your credit card in advance, the server can just place the order in the trunk and you’re good to go, contact free.

Takeout Review: Tamale Co.

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tamale takeout truck

Some of the more enterprising restaurants aren’t just sitting by the phone waiting for takeout orders to come in. Instead, facing the prospect of going out of business, they are going out for business, targeting neighborhoods and turning takeout to bring-in cuisine.

4 Rivers Smokehouse is doing that. On the Saturday before Easter, the popular barbecuerie set up a van and tent in downtown Orlando’s Bel Air neighborhood where residents could pick up preordered dinner packages. It turned out to be a big hit with the neighbors.

And because the people who organized the pickup with 4 Rivers also invited the next-door neighborhood of Lancaster Park to participate, Lancaster Park returned the favor the following week when it arranged preordered pickups with the Tamale Co. Never mind that the rendezvous site in Lancaster was almost as close as Tamale Co.’s restaurant in the Hourglass District; it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

And I was happy to participate.

Takeout Review: Zaza New Cuban Diner

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Zaza togo replate

Zaza New Cuban Diner has set up a nifty online ordering system for effortless and contactless takeout, at least to a point, but we’ll come back to that.

Zaza has four locations – Curry Ford Road, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs and Lake Mary – so it’s a good choice for a large audience. And if you’ve tried Zaza before, you know that the food is good.

Takeout Review: Tornatore's Pizzeria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tornatore togo tent

Tornatore’s, the College Park pizzeria and Italian cafe, was one of the first restaurants to use staff members to deliver food when restaurants were ordered to shut down dine-in operations. I appreciated that they seemingly adapted effortlessly.

I wanted to order takeout – I hadn’t had a chance to visit the restaurant before the lockdown to try newly hired chef Jason Wolfe’s food – but unfortunately my house falls a couple of miles outside the six-mile delivery radius.

So instead I phoned in my order for curbside pickup. I wish I had looked a little closer at the restaurant’s website because it has a nifty online ordering interface that would have made the process a lot smoother, even when it comes to the tip, which can be added at checkout.

Takeout Review: Soco

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Socoto sack

Here’s the thing about restaurant delivery services, those third-party gig operations that allow you to order from various restaurants and have the food brought to your doorstep. They add convenience in the best of times and a valuable service in the worst of times, i.e. now. And that goes both ways: there are benefits to the customers, to be sure, but restaurants also gain by expanding their offerings beyond the dining room.

But it comes at a cost, especially to the restaurants. Many of the delivery services have waived the delivery fee they charge to the customers. The money is made by taking a rather hefty portion of the cost of the order, usually 30 percent. And with most of the restaurants that are still open and offering takeout and delivery, that 30 percent eats into an already meager, nearly nonexistent profit.

So I found it a positive development when the Florida Insurance Commissioner encouraged auto insurance providers to allow restaurants to use their staff members to deliver food and be covered on their regular policies.

One of the restaurants that got approval for its staffers is Soco of Thornton Park, so I was anxious to see how the process worked (and to order some of my favorites from the menu).

Takeout Review: Saffron Indian Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Saffronto ext

How about Indian food today?

Sorry, we won’t be able to visit a local Indian restaurant for one of the requisite all-you-can-eat buffets. To be realistic, I’m not sure we’ll see self-serve buffets like we used to have B.C. (before covid-19).

But let’s be honest, to really experience what an Indian restaurant can do, it’s better to order from the menu. So that’s what we’ll do at Saffron, the Indian restaurant on Sand Lake Road.

I phoned in my order and negotiated the total, including the gratuity, while still on the phone. When I arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes later, I had only a short wait before someone called to say the order was ready. A man approached the car and place it in the trunk.

Takeout Review: First Watch

Written by Scott Joseph on .

FWtakeout ext

Here’s a good takeout option for you weekend brunchers, although it doesn’t have to be confined to Saturday or Sunday because for a lot of us right now everyday is like a weekend.

First Watch has always been a popular choice for morning and midday meals, and now you can make all your selections using its new online ordering system, one of the user-friendliest I’ve ever seen.

Takeout Review: Stefano's Trattoria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Stefanoto ext

“This is the very definition of comfort food.”

That was what my isolation companion said as we tucked into our takeout from Stefano’s Trattoria, the popular Winter Springs Italian restaurant. And it was true. Pasta, sauce, cheese – all a warm culinary hug.

The team at Stefano’s jumped right into offering takeout when restaurants were ordered closed, and they’re doing a very good job.

Stefano’s Trattoria’s entire menu is available for takeout, which is a lot. Takeout is available via phone or through online ordering on the restaurant’s website. Delivery is available: Before 4 p.m. food is delivered by staff members; after 4, Doordash and Postmates pick up the food and bring it to you.

I called in my order and drove to Winter Springs to pick it up.