Orlando World Center Marriott has replaced its onsite Italian restaurant with another Italian restaurant. Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen opened Saturday, replacing the decade-old Ristorante Tuscany. I attended a media preview dinner a couple of days before the screens were removed, opening the restaurant to the full view of the expansive lobby in the immense hotel.
More than one person made a reference to Prato, the Winter Park casual Italian, in reference to the decor. “I keep looking for the wall of plants,” one attendee said to me. There is plenty of rustic wood on the walls, large-tile flooring, bare wood tabletops and simple light fixtures, including chandeliers fashioned out of metal hoops with bare bulbs. There are a couple of large garage doors permanently in the open position. Communal tables and plenty of bar space should be attractive to solo diners. (One very thoughtful design touch: ample power outlets along the bar for device chargers.)
Executive chef Anthony Burdo’s menu emphasizes locally sourced products and family-style portions for sharing (which likely won’t appeal to solo diners).
We started our visit with a sampling of charcuterie, or “boards,” as they’re listed on the menu, and some outrageously delicious almonds mixed with cubes of roasted pork, served in a whimsical pig-faced bowl. During a tour of the vast kitchen we had a chance to taste some of the pizzas, which I liked very much. The crusts had just the right thickness and crispness, and the toppings were fresh and vibrant. I especially enjoyed the “Green, Egg & Ham,” which featured arugula, prosciutto and an egg cooked sunny-side up plopped in the middle.
Back in the dining room, we settled in at the communal tables for some more samplings.
Arborio Rice Balls were served in a spicy arrabiata sauce (arrabiata means angry).
Eggplant caponata featured sliced aubergine on crisp flatbread with whipped ricotta.
The “big green bowl” salad featured local lettuces and herbs tossed with a vinaigrette.
From the list of pastas, which are available in half or full portions (I like that), I enjoyed the cheese tortelling with butternut squash and sage brown butter.
Braised pork shank was served on a bed of big, plump white beans.
A highlight of the dinner was the whole roasted branzino, which was filleted tableside.
Cannoli for dessert, with limoncello, of course.
Limoncello is featured in one of the signature cocktails. The mixologists use lots of local ingredients, one of the hot beverage trends of 2013, for what they call their “garden to glass” cocktails.
I enjoyed my dinner at Siro and I think it’s a vast improvement over Ristorante Tuscany, which was horribly overpriced. Here, you can do very well with a pizza for $14, various antipasti at $8 each, a pasta at $10 for half portion or $20 for full (easy math), and entrees of $22 to $29 if you’re really hungry.
But the real question is: would I recommend Siro to locals? Negotiating the country of Marriott World Center has never been easy, and parking has always been outrageous. Perhaps the hotel’s executives recognize that because they are offering complimentary parking (valet or self) for diners at Siro. So, yes, I would recommend it, especially to locals who are pressed to find a convenient restaurant in the tourist corridor.
The food here is very good, there is a sincere dedication to quality, especially in the selection of local ingredients, and the atmosphere is convivial.
Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen is at the Marriott World Center, 8701 World Center Drive, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. Here is a link to SiroOrlando.com. The phone number is 407-238-8619.