New Italian Restaurant!

As you all know, I am on a never-ending quest for good Italian food. So you can only imagine my excitement when I was driving through Ocoee tonight and saw that Giuseppe’s Ristorante (Professional Pkwy & Maguire Rd) is finally open!

Yes, I said “excitement.” It’s west Orange county. Things are slow.

Anyway, I ended up stopping in with my family, who wanted to pick up a pizza. The wait time gave me a chance to check the place out. The dining room itself is small–it’s in a corner space of a new strip mall–but the decorating is attractive and it’s not claustrophobic. They borrowed a little of the done-to-death “Tuscan” trend and mercifully mixed it up with some modern stuff, and the result is very warm. It smelled good when we hit the door. That’s my grandfather’s test for good Italian.

The menu…oh, boy. As one guy said at the bar, “Give me another beer. I’m working on my degree so I can figure this thing out.” The mission statement on the front reads, in part, “The menu was created with our ideaology and foundation of individual creativity. Please express your needs and we will create your palate’s desire.”

Bold words, coming from a strip-mall joint the size of Payless! But they ain’t fooling around: as one of the waiters explained (yes, explained) to us, you create your own plate every time you come in. The choices are supposed to be mixed and matched so that it’s exactly like you like it. They’ve got a ton of seafood–scallops, lobster, shellfish, etc.–steaks, veal, chicken, and exactly 10 different pasta dishes. After you combine all of that, THEN you get to pick your own sauce. Are you thinking red or cream? Amateur! Try Caprese, Floria, Siciliana, and many others that even I’ve never heard of before (and my first visit to an Italian restaurant happened when I was three days old, so I’ve been at this awhile).

Moral of the story: don’t come here if you aren’t feeling creative. You’re urged to be creative right here on the menu.

The bar was a festive place, with a witty bartender and a row of slightly-sloshed patrons who could’ve started their own sitcom (wait, that’s been done already). Their finest moment came when one of the waitresses came out to say, “Did somebody here order a Sicilian pizza?”

Let’s be honest, that question never precedes good news. My father looked suspicious as he stepped up to the counter.

“No, no, it’s nothing bad,” the waitress explained, seeing the look on his face. “I was just asking because that thing smells REEEAAAALLY good. Can I come over?”

“I want to see the pizza!” somebody yelled, and since the entire bar echoed the sentiment, my father opened the pizza box so that everyone could ooh and aah over the sight. They all agreed it was a darn fine-looking pizza: peppers and pepperoni, with enough cheese to be oozy but not so much that it runs off the top. It had to be 3/4″ thick. The box was like five pounds and my dad will be eating this pizza for awhile. As a person who likes to make her own, my hat is off to them, because Sicilian is one of the harder ones to get right and my picky family gave it “four stars out of five.” (I asked them to rate it for you.)

You may wonder why I did not eat the pizza my own lazy self. The thing is, I am one of those special-needs, gluten-free, “no preservatives no cheese nothing that tastes good” people with dietary restrictions. I didn’t used to be this way. I now cook Italian for other people and make a separate dinner for myself…because that way I know what went into it! So now I’m very conscious of which restaurants will honor my special requests and make an effort to create an appetizing dinner, which ones just plop something naked and plain on a plate, and the REALLY scary ones who say, “Ah, she’ll never know the difference!” and try to poison me.

I bring this up because lots of people are probably just like me–chained to about three restaurants in town and terrified to try anything else. I have high hopes for Giuseppe’s because I see that the meat must obviously start out with no sauce or marinades, so maybe they can make something I can eat. After all, it has to start plain if people are going to design their own dinners, right? I might actually order something here myself and see what happens. Live dangerously, that’s my motto!

So anyway, Giuseppe’s number is (407) 656-0129 if you want to give them a try. Tomorrow is their third day open. And if you feel like a drink, hit the bar and make friends.

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