Bella Italia Ristorante

Exterior

Bar

Interior

Clams Casino

Fettuccine Alfredo

Eggplant Rollatini

***** (5 stars)

Bella Italia is definitely a level above what you’d expect in a strip mall location. The decor, food and service are all top notch.

We started with the Clams Casino, a generous portion with a delicious lemon and garlic broth.

Fettucine Alfredo was equally generous, nigh on to huge. It needed a bit of salt to bring out the flavor, but had plenty of butter, cream and cheese.

Eggplant Rollatini was a nice improvement on Eggplant Parmigiana, with grilled rather than breaded eggplant, stuffed with four kinds of cheese, baked in marinara sauce, and topped with melted mozzarella.  It was delicious. The accompanying spaghetti was fine, but not needed.

All of these dishes were less than $9 at lunch, a great deal. Lunch also came with a basket of fresh bread and an excellent pesto/olive oil mixture for dipping.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Bella Italia Ristorante
13848 Tilden Rd
Ste 192
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 347-3277
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bella-italia-ristorante-winter-garden

Melts On Main Street

Who Shot JR

Reuben

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This charming sandwich shop also offers a variety of wonderful home cooked specials such as soda bread, stew and quiche. You can also pick up dinner to take home.

As the name implies, most sandwiches are grilled. I had the Reuben, a special, and it was excellent. I wasn’t a huge fan of the very chunky potato salad that came with it.

The Who Shot JR wasn’t quite as flavorful as the Rueben, but it came with a mild blue cheese spread on the side that was a nice accompaniment.

There is live entertainment on Sunday.

Melts On Main Street
108 S Main St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 656-3587
https://www.yelp.com/biz/melts-on-main-street-winter-garden

Maya Del Sol

*** (3 stars)

A beautiful patio is the highlight of this place. Unfortunately sitting in it means you have to eat their food, which is a mixed blessing at best.

The only particularly good item was the nachos, which were unconventional but good. Each rustic chip was topped with shredded beef, black beens, a little drizzle of cheese, tomatoes, scallions, jalapeños and sour cream.

The fish in the fish tacos was coated with a very strange seasoning that no one at our table liked. And the chilaquiles were a sodden lump, the worst we ever encountered.

Service was friendly and efficient, and as I said, the patio is lovely. My advice: have a sangria and some nachos and call it a day.

Maya Del Sol
144 S Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 358-9800
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maya-del-sol-oak-park

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza

**** (4 stars)

This is a great concept for pizza.

It’s always bugged me that pizza places charge some ridiculous amount for each ingredient when you roll your own. Well not at Blaze. Here you can get anything you like, in any combination, for one reasonable price. Assembly is quick and easy, and the baking process is equally quick, so it’s as fast as fast food, but completely custom, and with much better ingredients.

Service was friendly and efficient, and they took extra care to get my crust crispy, the way I like it, and to melt the ricotta cheese I selected.

It’s great that there’s finally an excellent pizza place in Evanston!

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
4999 Old Orchard Center
Ste F9
Skokie, IL 60077
(847) 568-1649
http://www.yelp.com/biz/blaze-fast-fired-pizza-skokie

Fresh Made Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

What a makeover this place has had since its origins as a Perkins and then short stints as two sports bars. This latest remodeling has opened the place up and lightened it so that it’s hard to believe it’s the same spot. Now it’s light, airy and energetic.

The food has improved, too. You order a broad selection of salads, sandwiches, or entrees at the counter and they bring it to your table. There is a focus on fresh ingredients, and everything is prepared to order.

There is also a large beverage bar in the center of the room, with homemade infused teas and waters. Beer and wine is also available.

Our group had three salads and a chicken noodle bowl, and everyone liked their selections.

Service was very friendly, and management seems to really be on top of things.

This is definitely the best concept for this place so far, and should be quite successful.

Fresh Made Kitchen
8965 Conroy Windermere Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 720-8329
http://www.yelp.com/biz/fresh-made-kitchen-orlando

Dandelion Communitea Café

**** (4 stars)

This cute little restaurant is in a cute little house. You order at a cute little counter in the front room, and then they bring your food to you in one of the cute little inside rooms or on the not-so-cute front patio.

The majority of what they serve consists of quinoa and mixed greens with various vegetable toppings. This means that if you don’t like what you get it’s pretty much your own fault, since you picked it.

I particularly liked the ginger cilantro dressing that came with my friend’s lunch. Prices are very reasonable. Service is not really restaurant style, but more at an operational level.

Probably the best choice in town for a vegetarian meal.

Dandelion Communitea Café
618 N Thornton Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 362-1864
http://www.yelp.com/biz/dandelion-communitea-café-orlando-2

Paris Bistro

***** (5 stars)

Wow, what great ambiance this place has. It reminds me of a little cafe of the Champs Elysee in Paris. Food is authentically French, and the service is attentive and professional. I love sitting under the giant (fake but very realistic) tree in the enclosed courtyard and having lunch or brunch, both of which are very attractively priced. I’ve followed this place since its origin, with a different name and different owners, through  three locations, and it still never disappoints. My favorite little Orlando bistro.

Paris Bistro
216 N Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 671-4424
http://www.yelp.com/biz/paris-bistro-winter-park

Pei Wei Asian Diner

**** (4 stars)

As a big Asian food fan I really enjoy the ability to choose between Japanese, Chinese, Thai and other cuisines at one place. And I particularly like the fact that even the non-Asian food fans in our group like Pei Wei. Plus they have those really cool programmable Coke machines (that were programmed by a guy who used to work with us). There’s nothing like a vanilla/cherry/lime Diet Coke. Be careful of the calorie counts at Pei Wei, though, because each of those dishes is TWO servings! That’s why I usually have the lettuce wraps.

Pei Wei Asian Diner
8015 Turkey Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 241-3301
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pei-wei-asian-diner-orlando-6