La Scala

Carpaccio

Lobster ravioli

La Scala chopped tuna salad

Halloween decor!

**** (4 stars)

If you like old school Italian, there’s no better example than La Scala. Since 1956 they’ve been doing it the same way. That’s both good and bad, because it means you’ll reliably get the same meal you would have had decades ago, but your expectations might have changed.

For example, the chopped tuna salad is chopped up lettuce, chickpeas and essentially canned tuna. That’s what all tuna salads were like in the 60’s, but might not be what you are expecting now.

La Scala was the first restaurant in LA to make their own pasta, and it’s still excellent, in all its forms. I particularly liked the lobster ravioli in brown butter.

There’s a nice little wine list, with some good wines by the glass and half bottle, a rarity these days.

Also note that they go all out in their holiday decorating. A visit in October is a particular treat, as the Halloween decorations are fun and EXTENSIVE.

La Scala
434 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-0579
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-scala-beverly-hills-2

Via Alloro

Tira misu

Ravioli with burrata

Exterior

Interior

Neapolitan pizza

Carpaccio

**** (4 stars)

This is a good neighborhood restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area. The pastas are light and fresh, and the sauces flavorful. Caesar salad was a good starter, and the dressing had a nice anchovy flavor. The pizzas have a nice thin, crispy crust. Tira misu was one of the fluffiest I’ve encountered.

The wine list is fairly extensive, with a lot of good selections at average prices. Service was good.

Via Alloro
301 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-2900
https://www.yelp.com/biz/via-alloro-beverly-hills-2

George’s Gourmet Pizzeria

Mediterranean pizza (veggie)

Pepperoni and basil

Caesar salad

Patio

*** (3 stars)

George’s pizza serves a lot more than pizza, including pasta and other Italian standards. In fact the best item we had was the chicken Caesar salad, although I say that with qualifications. The chicken was actually quite tough, and the salad would have been better without it. But the bacon-like meat was good, the dressing was excellent, and the lettuce was nice and crisp.

I’m a fan of many styles of pizza, from thin crust to deep dish, New York style to Chicago style. George’s pizza isn’t really any of those. The crust is thicker than thin, and is a bit too tough and chewy. The result varies depending upon the pizza you order. In the case of pepperoni, it seemed like it was a frozen pizza, and was really not very good. But on the generously topped Mediterranean pizza (a veggie option) it worked fine, because the whole thing seemed more like a vegetable tart than a pizza.

It’s a quick serve concept where you order at a counter and they deliver to your table, but even so the water and menu service was friendly and attentive.

George’s Gourmet Pizzeria
15/1 Circa Boulevarde
Baulkham Hills, New South Wales 2153
+61 2 9836 2711
https://www.yelp.com/biz/georges-gourmet-pizzeria-baulkham-hills

Intermezzo Ristorante

Snapper and scampi

Pappardelle

Green olives, tomato, sourdough

Rocket, pear and reggiano

Front room

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I think a lot of the reviews here are out of date, as they have changed chef and staff in the past two years. We had a great experience here.

The ambiance is upscale genuine Italian as you would find in Italy. There’s an extensive menu and an excellent wine list with a focus on Italian wines (of course) but plenty of other selections as well.

We enjoyed our green olives, tomato and sourdough bread starter, and the rocket, pear and reggiano salad was a nice palate cleanser.

The pappardelle with mushrooms was a lovely, light pasta dish, and the crispy skin snapper with prawns was perfectly cooked. I could have licked the plate to get off the last of the pureed peas!

Service was attentive, and they brought nice glassware and decanted our Amarone without being asked.

Pricing is not cheap, but not unreasonable for the expensive location.

Intermezzo Ristorante
1 Martin Pl
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61 2 9229 7788
https://www.yelp.com/biz/intermezzo-ristorante-sydney-3

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

Mrs Potato

Exterior

Interior

Empanada

Chicken Catupiry Rosti

**** (4 stars)

This is both a counter serve and sit down restaurant. Although there are only three tables in the building, an adjacent permanent tent accommodates many more. The menu offers many variations of potatoes rosti, and also baked potatoes.

Rosti is essentially a beret-sized mound of hashbrowns with whatever filling you like. I tried the Chicken Catupiry Rosti. I enjoyed the crispy brown hashbrown crust, but the filling wasn’t my favorite.

In addition to potatoes, they also have many Brazilian and South American entrees and appetizers. My favorite was the empanada. The beef version I ordered was unavailable so I tried cheese, and it was excellent, with a delicate crust cooked a perfect golden brown, and served with an excellent salsa/relish.

Service was excellent, very friendly and efficient. I was impressed that every customer was promptly and warmly welcomed upon arrival.

They also have a large assortment of Mr. Potato head toys for the kids to play with!

Mrs Potato
4550 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 290-0991
https://www.yelp.com/biz/mrs-potato-orlando-2

Spoleto

Exterior

Interior

Sauté

Oven

Fettuccine

Flatbread

***** (5 stars)

I really like the concept and execution of this place. Like many counter serve salad places, you pick your ingredients and they are combined while you are in line. But the twist here is that in addition to salads, they offer pastas or flatbreads.

I had fettuccine with Bolognese sauce, and the ingredients I selected were combined and sauteed while the pasta cooked. The result was a delicious combination (if I do say so myself) on perfectly prepared al dente pasta.

Service was fast and efficient, and the place has an airy, open feeling, with lots of outdoor seating as well.

Spoleto
4750 The Grove Dr
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 217-2756
https://www.yelp.com/biz/spoleto-windermere-2

Pizza Bruno

Pepperoni, ricotta, basil

Cauliflower

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I have to admit I was expecting a bit more from this place, given the hype, but while the pizza looked authentic, I didn’t find anything remarkable about its flavor or consistency. It struck me as odd that the basil was applied before baking, resulting in burnt leaves.

However I did love the kale salad! It was a perfect combination of a house-made Caesar dressing, plus little crunchy and sweet elements.

I also liked the cauliflower appetizer, although be warned that the sauce is very sweet. It’s almost dessert cauliflower.

The place can get quite loud, because the floors are concrete, and there are no soft surfaces.

Service was excellent.

Pizza Bruno
3990 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 440-3894
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-bruno-orlando

Bella Vista

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

Excellent outside dining setting amid the lush gardens of the Four Seasons Biltmore. The menu has a short but well thought out selection of Italian items. The Caesar salad was a bit weird, with broccoli and cauliflower, but the pastas were obviously homemade.

The inside dining is very noisy, with all hard surfaces and fairly bright lighting.

The wine list has a medium size selection of local wines, and more from other regions, but markups are very high.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Bella Vista
Four Seasons Resort
1260 Channel Dr
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 565-8237
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bella-vista-santa-barbara-4

Pizza Hut

Counter

Side Caesar

Hand Tossed Pepperoni Lover's Pizza

Hand Tossed Pepperoni Lover’s Pizza

 

**** (4 stars)

This is a counter service location with a small dine in area that includes a bar. There is the obligatory wall of sports-bar-like TV monitors.

Service was efficient, even on a bustling Saturday night. The side Caesar salad is a great deal at $2.50, and the individual hand tossed pepperoni lovers pizza was served piping hot from the oven and had plenty of toppings.

Pizza Hut
7970 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Ste 100
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 909-4327
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-hut-windermere-2