With most of the restaurants participating in Orlando Magical Dining Month, the grouping of three courses into a prix fixe menu where the prix is either $30 or $20 represents a savings. It’s sort of like the Rooms To Go concept that you’ll pay more if you buy the items separately. Buy the room — or in this case the meal — and you’ll save money. (Delivery charges are extra.)
But at Juliana’s, the mostly Italian restaurant in College Park, if you don’t order wisely you may be better off just choosing from the regular menu. Here’s why:
The $30 MagDngMo menu has three appetizer choices, four entrees and two desserts. Two of the appetizers are regularly $9, the other, bruschetta, $7. But only one entree — the herb-crusted salmon fillet priced at $19 — gets you close to the $30 mark where dessert can take you over the top and constitute the savings. The other entrees, all pasta dishes, are regularly $15. So order the bruschetta and a pasta dish and you’re nowhere near 30 bucks.
Of course, my guest and I went for the pricier appetizers, the calamari and zucchini and the pan-sautéed mussels. The squid and squash were lightly breaded and fried crisply. The mussels were good and plump, but the broth tasted as though it was made from canned beef broth — very salty and, well, beefy.
My friend got the salmon, naturally, so I went with the shrimp and scallops over fettuccine (there’s a rule among restaurant critics that everyone must order something different).
My dish was uninspired. There wasn’t a thing wrong with it, but nothing about it made me go mmmmm, either.
The salmon, however, was nicely done, and it was a generous portion, too. It was served with tiny pastatini, which looked like couscous but had a distinct pasta mouthfeel.
We had one of each of the desserts, tiramisu and cheesecake, and neither of us cared for either one. The cheesecake was as cloying as cotton candy, and the tiramisu was too damp.
This brings up a great suggestion that a reader sent in. She wanted to suggest that next year the Magical Dining Month offer a menu option that skips dessert. I like that. Maybe make salad another option, or have a two-course alternative.
Juliana’s is a prettier restaurant than I remembered. Walls are boldly painted in deep red hues, tables are covered with black cloths and an Art Decoey pendant lamp hangs over each.
Service was friendly and helpful. There is a nice wine list with several by-the-glass selections as well as full bar service.
Magical Dining Month menus were not offered until I requested, which is the case at many participating restaurants because they stand to make more money if you order your couch and chair, um, I mean appetizer, entree and dessert separately. Here I’d recommend having just the appetizer and entree from the main menu and skip dessert. Leave an extra dollar for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.