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Timpano Martini Bar & Chophouse

Written By Scott Joseph On December 22, 2009

Restaurant Review: Timpano Martini Bar & Chophouse on Restaurant Row Orlando

timpano-photo2Timpano was one of the first to set up along what I would eventually dub Restaurant Row Orlando. It seems longer than just seven years ago, doesn’t it? So much has changed along that strip of road.

And luckily a lot has changed with Timpano, as well.

When it first opened, the restaurant was called Timpano Italian Chophouse and was a new venture, along with Samba Room next door, from the parent company of TGI Friday’s, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide. The restaurant had no identity — it was ostensibly Italian, but there was little about the menu that evoked Italy. And the chophouse designation was a mystery — the menu was practically chopless. For everything the kitchen did right, it also did something horribly wrong. Wisely, Carlson dumped the concept and went back to concentrating of Friday’s.

Orlando-based E-Brands bought Timpano and Samba Room. Today it’s called Timpano Chophouse & Martini Bar. Oddly, though the Italian designation has been dropped, there are more Italian entrees on the menu than before. And there still are only three items that might be considered a chop, and that’s only if you count a bone-in ribeye. Martinis, however, are in abundance.

In fact, that’s what Timpano has going for it these days: the bustlingly boisterous ambience of a 1940s cocktail lounge. In fact, the expanded bar area is called the Sinatra lounge, and many nights a live quartet with singer is featured.

That vibe also imbues the dining room, a large, capacious space that seems always to be filled with people having a good time.

Little about the food is cause for celebration. Although most of what I sampled on a recent visit was perfectly fine, nothing was outstanding.

And my steak, a 12-ounce New York strip, was actually pretty disappointing. It ws rather thin, overcooked and had a watery texture. This was not a $29-quality steak.

The crispy half chicken, however, was really quite good, and at $18.50 was one of the least expensive items offered. The skin was indeed crispy, but the meat was juicy, and the lemon-garlic sauce gave it a piquant flavor.

The veal marsala was nicely done, too. The cutlets, though smallish, were tender, and the wine sauce was sufficiently rich.

Best among the appetizers was the mozzarella fritti, little balls of cheese with a golden breading, served with a tasty tomato sauce. We also liked the Tuscan flatbread, which had sausage and caramelized onions on a thin crust. The the calamari fritto misto was a disappointing soggy mess.

Our team of servers seemed to want to control the flow of our dinner, interrupting conversation to give us the menu spiel and to take orders. Once it was made clear that we would be calling the shots, the servers became much more cooperative and even helpful. And cross-service was very good — when I couldn’t find one of our servers to fulfill a need, I asked a passing waiter who cheerily jumped in.

I wish I could say the servers in the lounge were as cheerful or efficient. On the evening of my visit they were quite a dour and lackadaisical crew.

The Timpano that exists today is a better restaurant than the one that opened on the nascent Restaurant Row Orlando but it’s far from the best option for dining. Still, I like the atmosphere, especially the lounge, and would welcome the chance to sit and sip a martini, listen to lively jazz and pop little balls of fried mozzarella in my mouth.

Timpano is at 7488 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily (until midnight Thursday through Saturday). reservations at 407-248-0429 or through OpenTable. Here’s a link to Timpano’s Web site (office browsing alert: Tony Bennett will start singing when the page opens). And here’s the Timpano dinner menu.

Timpano Chophouse & Martini Bar on Urbanspoon

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