Those guys from Positano are at it again, this time with a little Caffe Positano Pizzeria in College Park. According to the story printed on the back of the menu here, “It all started in 1997 when four family members from Positano, Italy, opened Caffe Positano in Apopka.” Of course, those of us who have been around a while know that it actually started about six years before that, and not in Apopka but rather in Ocoee.
That was where Positano was — and is — which was really the prototype for the Apopka restaurant. It was a little confusing at the time. Positano was a family operated business that included Roberto Barba, his brother Pasquale and Michele Mandara. Those three were bought out by Michael Mandara in 1996, and in ’97 they opened Caffe Positano in Apopka, bringing in another Mandara cousin, Salvatore. But it was all very amicable, from what I was told. After Apopka, the group opened a Caffe Positano in Lake Mary and then, in 2008, in Sanford. (That first Positano is still on West Colonial Drive but there no longer is a familial connection.)
In 2001 the family hired Denny Tornatore to tend bar at one of the restaurants. Tornatore eventually became a partner, and now the College Park pizzeria is technically his, though on any given night you might find Roberto or Pasquale or one of the others helping out in the kitchen. (By the way, it was Roberto who gave me his recipe for limoncello that I published many years ago and still make today.)
Those first Positanos were really two restaurants in one: a pizzeria on one side and a more traditional dining room on the other side. This new College Park restaurant is all pizzeria, and a pretty small one at that. Or at least it seemed small when I stopped in recently and found the place packed solid and bustling with happy diners.
I ordered an appetizer of eggplant rollatini to nosh on while I waited for my Roma pizza. But it was the pizza that made it to the table first. When I expressed mild dismay that I wouldn’t have an opportunity to enjoy my appetizer, the young woman who had brought the pizza apologized, said the rollatini would be out in just a moment and that I wouldn’t be charged for it. How nice.
And the rollatini was good, very delicate with a light ricotta cheese filling and a pulpy tomato sauce. It would have been enough to eat as an entree, but that’s not how I roll. I chose the Roma pizza because it was the meatiest, with sausage, meatballs, ham and pepperoni. There were plenty of toppings, and the crust was a delightful balance of not too thick and not too thin. I ate too many slices. (Yes, that’s how I roll.)
There are other Italian dishes on the menu, but pizza is the obvious forte. You’ll want to stick with the pies.
Caffe Positano Pizzeria is at 3818 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to the Caffe Positano website. The phone number is 407-292-2248.