City Fire, the newest restaurant to take up residence in the Dellagio Town Center off Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, is bound to do well just on the nostalgia factor alone. It is a project of Manny Garcia, whose Pebbles and Harvey’s Bistro restaurants were local favorites for many years. And Garcia has brought in his old creative team, including executive chef Tony Pace, chef Todd Bagget, and front-of-the-house managers Gina and Mike Buell (Garcia’s daughter and son-in-law) and Benj Ray. Just mentioning the Pebbles link evokes memories among longtime locals of such dishes as thumbits, nutty cheesy salad and chicken Vesuvio.
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Those dishes are on the City Fire menu, as well, but with a twist. City Fire occupies a space that was previously an Urban Flats, and when he was developing the menu, Pace decided that he would use the stone oven that came with the restaurant almost exclusively. So instead of a chicken Vesuvio that used to be served over boiled noodles, City Fire offers a baked lasagna version. And I like it better than the old way — the hints of rosemary and lemon in the garlic sauce are a little more subtle, and the lasagna noodles offer more heft. Other items, such as the braised short ribs and roasted pork shank, are naturals for the oven treatment, and are done quite nicely.
Of course the previous purpose of the oven was for Urban Flats’ signature flatbreads. City Fire offers an array of “stoneflats” with various toppings. But one of my favorite items was a burger that was wrapped in stoneflat dough and baked in the oven, resulting in a sort of burger version of beef Wellington. Very creative.
Besides the chicken thumbits, CF also offers a foie gras version, with pan-seared lobes on crostini drizzled with a blueberry glaze. The duck liver had a wonderful fatty mouthfeel, but I found the glaze a bit too cloying.
The nutty cheesy salad will bring a smile to old Pebbles and Harvey’s fans. It features romaine and iceberg lettuce tossed with zucchini sour cream dressing and shredded cheddar and jack cheeses. Sunflower seeds and walnuts provide the nutty factors. As good as always.
The space has been transformed by Raymond Schaefer of Maverick Architecture & Design of Orlando into a warm and comfortable if eclectic environment. It is decorated with found items — from a fire sale, perhaps? — with old doors attached to the walls and an array of mismatched light fixtures that range from alcove- to cathedral-sized. Over the bar area is a patchwork quilt of fabric ceiling tiles. A copper lined wall surrounds the Stone Wood Oven that is in full view of the dining room. There is also an outdoor bar and patio high over Sand Lake Road.
City Fire is a good addition to the array of restaurants on Restaurant Row. It brings a casual upscale element that is too scarce. More importantly, it brings back one of the area’s most successful restaurant teams. Nice to have them back.
City Fire American Oven and Bar
Where: 7958 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando
When: Lunch and dinner daily
How Much: $$
Where to call: 407-722-8888