I was invited recently to join some friends for dinner at Vinito Tuscan Tavern, a new restaurant in the Prime Outlets Mall on International Drive. The last time I had dinner at the mall was at Kafe Kalik next door, which was marginal at best. I had concluded that with the outlets being a big tourist attraction the restaurants there figured they didn’t have to try very hard.
So, I wasn’t expecting much from Vinito, just a good excuse to get together with friends. But it turns out that Vinito isn’t just interested in the tourist trade, they seem genuinely interested in doing genuinely good Italian food.
A genuine Italian chefs helps. Naples native Raffaele Marsilio heads the kitchen here and brings with him the recipes and techniques he learned by watching his mother cook in the family restaurants. (His family still owns two restaurants in Belgium.)
Marsilio started us off with a selection of appetizers, including calamari fritti ($8.99) and an antipasto platter of meats and cheeses and some of the most incredibly delicious olives I’ve had in some time.
The calamari was quite good, too. The squid was tender and the breading was light and fried just so, then sprinkled with a little salt. Perfect.
For my entree I chose the green pepper filet mignon ($23.99), a wonderfully tender steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with a tangy peppercorn sauce tinged with rosemary. A truly delicious sauce.
Marsilio’s marinara was pretty darned good, too. But the fresh tomatoes and basil on the spaghetti Geraldina ($11.95) was even better. Geraldina, by the way, is Marsilio’s mother’s name, so you would expect this one to be a specialty. (I did find it odd that one of the dishes highlighted on the menu as one of “our chef’s specialties” was chicken Alfredo. Why would a chef from Naples with a repertoire of authentic Italian dishes claim as a forte a dish invented in New York?)
The pan-seared scallops ($15.99) were plump and tender and tasty with the spinach sauteed with garlic. And the veal Marsala ($16.99) with its buttery wine reduction sauce filled with chewy mushrooms was one of the best I’ve tasted in a very long time. (Yes, I understand how extreme that statement is, but I stand by it.)
Desserts were also delicious. My friends and I argued among ourselves over which of the desserts we sampled was best. I liked the carrot cake for its moistness and rich cream cheese frosting; someone else preferred the cheesecake (New York style rather than an Italian ricotta); and another preferred the tiramisu with its liqueur-sodden lady fingers.
Vinito features a wine list comprised only of wines from Gruppo Mezzacorona cellars in Italy. Only a few selections are offered by the glass, but a good number were offered in the $25 to $27 dollar range for a bottle. For that price, get a bottle instead of a glass and take the rest home with you.
Service was prompt and gracious, and at one point we were serenaded by a lovely young woman who is studying opera. She had a beautiful voice and it was a nice touch.
The restaurant sprawls a bit, and the open kitchen dominates the decor, but it’s a pleasant space. Walls are decorated with photographs of the Italian wineries.
I enjoyed my meal at Vinito Tuscan Tavern and would gladly return, if only for an appetizer and a glass of wine after a day of bargain hunting.
Vinito Tuscan Tavern is at 4971 International Drive, Orlando, in the center of the Prime Outlets International mall. it is open daily for lunch and dinner. Click here to see Vinito Tuscan Tavern’s menu; click here for the Web site. The phone number is 407-354-0404.
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