Comfort Food, Italian Style

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Billy Joel said it best: “A bottle of red, a bottle of white. It all depends upon your appetite. I’ll meet you any time you want, in our Italian restaurant.” Whether you want to grab a pizza pie on the fly or go enjoy a lazy lunch with friends, Orlando has a slew of casual Italian eateries that serve up the kind of red-sauced comfort foods we all love. My faves are listed here, I hope you enjoy and mangia bene!

PIZZA

Pizzeria Del-Dio

photo courtesy of Facebook

photo courtesy of Facebook

3210 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando

Located in Colonialtown near the Fashion Square Mall, this pizza shop is famous for their heart-shaped pizza  (at right; classic round is pictured above). Popular during Valentine’s Day and a great gift to give for birthdays, Del-Dio’s makes pies in the shape of hearts to give to that special someone. Now how’s that for saying “I love you”?

Tomasino’s

5229 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs

2612 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando

It’s hard to find authentic New York-style pizza in Orlando, but Tomasino’s comes the closest. They also have calzones, strombolis and eggplant parmigiana. They even offer their “Made Man Pizza Challenge,” where diners sign up to try to devour their entire 12-inch stuffed pizza in one sitting—solo.

Lazy Moon

11551 University Blvd., Orlando

If we could describe Lazy Moon in two words, it would be “giant pizza.” At Lazy Moon’s, the delicious slices are literally as big as your head, but UCF Knights take pride in eating there at least once, if not several times, before graduating.

Giordano’s

6203 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando

12151 S. Apopka Vineland Road, Lake Buena Vista

The stuffed pie at Giordano's does not skimp on cheese.

The stuffed pie at Giordano’s does not skimp on cheese.

7866 W. Irlo Bronson Highway, Kissimmee

Hailing from Chicago, Giordano’s is the king of stuffed pizza. Tourists visiting the Lake Buena Vista and International Drive area frequent the place, but plenty of locals deem it worth the trip too. The famous stuffed pizza comes with a variety of “topping” options to layer inside the double crust, and it is smothered with fresh tomato sauce on top. It’s pricier than the average pie, but worth it.

Rossi’s Pizza and Pasta

5919 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando

Starting from humble beginnings in 1965, this restaurant has some of the best pizza Orlando has to offer. It offers all the traditional pies and specialty pies (e.g. the Aloha, Greek and Rossi’s Combo), as well as its own version of the stuffed pizza that brings fans from all over town. A full bar and wood-paneled walls lined with photos add to the ambience.

Gardell Brothers Brick Oven Pizza

13586 Village Park Drive, Ste. 310, Orlando

Gardell Brothers is earning a lot of hype for both its excellent brick oven pizza and its back story. Actor Billy Gardell from the television show “Mike & Molly” always dreamed of opening a pizza place, and he and his brother have done just that.

La Bella Luna

4886 New Broad St., Orlando

Located in the heart of Baldwin Park, La Bella Luna is a family-owned Italian restaurant that has been around for years, serving up pies the entire family can enjoy. Voted “Best Pizza in Town” by the Orlando Sentinel from 2005 to 2007, their white pizza and pizza with chicken and spinach are standouts.

Brick & Fire Pizza and Pasta Parlor

1621 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

6051 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee

Despite the common name, the owners here are emphatic that they’re NOT a chain store—and the quality of their pizza proves the point. They make their dough by hand daily, and the “Brick & Fire Classic” is the crispiest and tastiest pizza you can find in Orlando.

PASTA

Trevi Pasta

2120 Edgewater Drive, Orlando

Trevi Pasta is a one-of-a kind find in Orlando, making and selling fresh artisanal pasta and ravioli. Located in College Park, the pasta shop gives customers the option of dining in or buying fresh pasta to go to make at home. The place is small enough for guests to watch owner Vanessa Falcone make the pasta by hand, and they also sell can also get an assortment specialties such as olives, coffee, and limoncello cake.

The Meatball Shoppe 

The Meathball Shoppe's spicy pork meatballs over polenta: peasant food fit for a king or queen.

Spicy pork meatballs over polenta: peasant food fit for a king or queen.

7325 Lake Underhill Road, Orlando

Located in an unsuspecting plaza off of Lake Underhill, The Meatball Shoppe will transport you to your nonna’s kitchen even before you take a bite. The place has a warm and comforting appeal with family pictures on the walls, and the meatballs are simply amazing. They offer a variety of options, with your choice of meatballs on top pasta or polenta (photo at right), smashed on top of delicious ciabatta bread, or all on their own. They also offer gluten-free and vegan options. Co-owners Isabella and Jeff Morgia have found the recipe for success, and we wish it were “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” every day!

Spoleto

12101 University Blvd., Ste. 219, Orlando

8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Ste. 199, Orlando

349 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park (Coming Soon)

Just as Chipotle allows you to create your own fast and fresh meal, Spoleto has created a design-savvy space for guests to craft their own pasta, salad, or flatbread meal from a wide variety of proteins, veggies, and more. With more than 25 fresh ingredients, some of them locally-sourced, the possibilities are endless.

Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria

6327 S Orange Ave., #101, Pine Castle

Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria is an Italian restaurant with just the right amount of elegant and casual. The menu is a mix of Italian classics and traditional dishes with a twist. They offer a varied wine list as well as pizza and pasta entrees, but be sure to save room for dessert. Look for traditional cannoli and tiramisu as well as limoncello cake with mascarpone and a Nutella cheesecake.

CLASSIC ITALIAN DISHES

Vivo Italian Kitchen

Universal CityWalk® – Orlando, 6000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando

Whether you’re leaving Islands of Adventure or catching dinner before dancing at CityWalk, Vivo Italian Kitchen is a great option. With traditional recipes and modern décor, Vivo Italian Kitchen is the perfect mix between new school and old school. Handmade pasta noodles hang on display in the middle of the restaurant, and entrees include braised short rib risotto, lasagna, and chicken marsala.

Goodfella’s Pizzeria

Alafaya Commons, 11865 E Colonial Drive, Orlando

A staple for good Italian cooking, Goodfella’s Pizzeria has everything, from great slices of pizza, Italian entrées, and calzones. Standouts include their pizza Bianca, pizza margarita, eggplant rollatini (eggplant rolled up and filled with ricotta and ham), and baked manicotti.

Lido’s

2509 S. Orange Ave., Orlando

Lido’s has the feel of a cozy neighborhood restaurant, with checkered tablecloths, flowers in wine bottles,  and rustic wood-paneled décor. Baked ziti, pan-fried linguine marinara, chicken pizzaioli, veal, and eggplant all inspire serious chowing down.

Café Trastevere

825 N. Magnolia Ave., Orlando

Tucked away off of Magnolia Avenue is a little piece of Italian heaven. Café Trastevere takes Northern and Southern Italian dishes and puts a fresh twist on them. Here you can sip on a glass of wine while you enjoy an Italian classic dish, like linguine alle vongole (clams), gnocchi and ravioli all’aragosta (ravioli stuffed with lobster meat).

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