Tuscany il Ristorante

Lobster fra Diavolo
Bar
Exterior
Patio

***** (5 stars)

Really excellent restaurant with traditional Italian dishes and some modern dishes too (Chilean Sea Bass with miso glaze).

Your meal begins with complimentary bruschetta and is accompanied by focaccia bread and garlic rolls.

Caesar salad is absolutely traditional.

The lobster fra diavolo was the best I’ve had, served in a unique presentation, with a whole lobster, split and out of the shell, on one side of the plate, and the pasta and assorted shellfish on the other side. Really excellent.

The extensive winelist has some real depth, especially on the Italian offerings, which are reasonably priced.

Service was really top notch.

Tuscany il Ristorante
968 S Westlake BlvdSte 4
Westlake Village, CA
91361
(805) 495-2768
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tuscany-il-ristorante-westlake-village-2

Papa D Pizza

Calzone

Interior

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

A lot of pizza restaurants think they know how to make calzones, but they basically just fold their pizzas in half. Not at Papa D! This is a real calzone, with a light, crisp, paper-thin crust filled with the best ingredients. I had pepperoni, red peppers, and ricotta, in addition to the standard mozzarella. It’s served with a bowl of fresh marinara. It was easily the best calzone I’ve had anywhere.

Papa D Pizza
5106 Dr Phillips Blvd
Orlando, FL
32819
(407) 299-0033
https://www.yelp.com/biz/papa-d-pizza-orlando

Corellis Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This hidden away gem of an Italian restaurant serves excellent food, and has some of the best wine prices you’ll find in Central Florida. The wine offerings are top notch, with a lot of hard to find labels, and an emphasis on top-rated reds. The owner obviously has a passion for it.

During a special event we were seated in the wine shop, and it was actually nicer than the main dining room. Plus, there was an excellent jazz saxophonist.

Highly recommended.

Corellis Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
1042-1044 E Hwy 50
Clermont, FL
34711
(352) 989-5924
https://www.yelp.com/biz/corellis-italian-restaurant-and-pizzeria-clermont-2

Maggiano’s Little Italy

***** (5 stars)

Our company has been using Maggiano’s to host our training sessions for several years, and they have always consistently delivered an excellent experience for our clients. The food is plentiful and tasty, and the service–even with a large group of up to 30–is efficient and friendly. Our customers rave about the trainings, and especially the desserts!

Maggiano’s Little Italy
9101 International Dr
Ste 2400
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 241-8650
https://www.yelp.com/biz/maggianos-little-italy-orlando-4

Pizza Hut

Lunch pizza special

**** (4 stars)

This new location replaced the old tired building just to the south. Unfortunately the buffet didn’t make the move. It was the last surviving one in Central Florida. But the new location is bright and airy, and the service is friendly.

The food is, of course, standard Pizza Hut food.

Pizza Hut
12195 S Apopka Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 239-0205
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-hut-orlando-51

Sotto

Interior

Exterior

Bread with garlic anchovy butter

Funghi pizza

*** (3 stars)

Excellent service here is the highlight, and the decor is intimate while at the same time being bustling. The food doesn’t quite live up to the resulting expectations.

Housemade bread was delicious, and worth the extra charge. The funghi pizza was flavorful, but the crust was more like naan bread, with no crispness at all. We ate the toppings off.

Rigatoni was nicely al dente, but this dish should only be ordered if you absolutely LOVE chicken livers, and they weren’t just the prime flavor component, they were the only flavor component.

I give them points for doing something different with the wine list, but it may not be what you’re looking for. ALL of the wines are from lesser known Italian appellations, so you’re not going to find any varietals you’ve likely heard of. This encourages exploration, but also invites disappointment.

Sotto
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sotto-los-angeles

Gibsons Italia

View

Interior

Exterior

Chef’s Crudo Selection

Lettuce and herb salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette (off menu item)

New York Strip Bone-In

Grilled Romanesco

Grilled asparagus

Affogato

Good view, rain or shine

***** (5 stars)

The original Gibson’s is a good restaurant, but this one is a great restaurant. Every element of my meal was about as close to perfection as I can expect from a steakhouse. Of the dozens of steakhouses I’ve tried in Chicago, it was clearly the best.

Of course, there is the view, perhaps the best in the city, looking out at the junction of the Chicago River. And the room itself is also gorgeous. It’s on the third floor, with a bar on the floor below.

The service was also impressive. Not only were the waiters professional and friendly, but they were genuine hosts, with several of them stopping by to chat.

The menu includes the full range of Gibson’s branded prime steaks, and they are just as good as you would expect. But it’s the other dishes that impressed me most. The chef’s selection crudo was a wonderful starter: three sashimi preparations of tuna, kanpachi and fluke, with amazing and surprising accompaniments.

An off-menu salad of lettuce and herbs dressed in Meyer Lime vinaigrette was a perfect break before tackling the steak. For sides I couldn’t decide between the grilled romanesco and grilled asparagus, finally ordering the asparagus. To my surprise, my waiter also brought the romanesco so I could try it. Both were excellent.

I finished off with the affogato, which was served deconstructed, so you could add your own coffee to the ice cream. The coffee was laced with Averna, which imparted a delightful bitterness to offset the sweet ice cream. The homemade cookies that came with it were also amazing.

The wine list is also top notch. There’s a great variety, and some reasonable prices. The Morey Saint Denis I had was a gem.

I can’t ask for much more than the meal I had at Gibson’s, and it’s perhaps the first Chicago steakhouse I’ve been to that will keep drawing me back rather than always trying new ones. Highly recommended.

Gibsons Italia
233 N Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 414-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gibsons-italia-chicago-2

Pizza Hut

Interior at peak lunch hour

Personal pan pizza

*** (3 stars)

People seem to dislike this Pizza Hut, but I thought it was fine. At the middle of lunch time it was deserted and we thought it might be closed. But someone appeared and took our order, and the food was Pizza Hut standard, so I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Pizza Hut
1555 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 734-7713
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-hut-los-angeles-11

Locanda Veneta

Interior

Exterior

Salad Insalata di “Locanda”

Carpaccio

Branzino special

Squid ink pasta

Affogato al Café

Tiramisu

***** (5 stars)

This is everything you’d want in a neighborhood Italian place: intimate, great ambiance, good food, nice wine list, friendly service.

Beef carpaccio was a nice starter, and I really enjoyed their unique Ceasar salad, which uses radicchio rather than romaine. It was a non-bitter variety of radicchio I hadn’t had before.

Their tiramisu is also unconventional, served in a bowl; it lacked the boozy ladyfingers in my favorite versions. But the affogato was excellent.

Locanda Veneta
8638 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 274-1893
https://www.yelp.com/biz/locanda-veneta-los-angeles

The Stinking Rose

Interior

Combo mussels shrimp crab

40 clove chicken

Prime rib

Garlic ice cream with caramel mole sauce

**** (4 stars)

I’ve been wanting to go to a Stinking Rose since I first saw one many, many years ago in San Francisco. I was expecting it to smell of garlic and for every dish to have an overwhelming taste of garlic, but that was far from the case. Garlic was very judiciously used to enhance each dish without being the focus.

By far the best thing we had was the seafood skillet, particularly the mussels. This was the best mussel preparation I’ve ever had.

Prime rib and the 40 clove chicken were good but not remarkable.

Garlic cream is an interesting experience you probably will only want to try once!

The Stinking Rose
55 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-7673
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-stinking-rose-beverly-hills-4