Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria 6327 S. Orange Ave. | 407-601-2400 | tartinipizzeria.com | $$
Tartini is changing the face of the neighborhood trattoria in this city. The checkered tablecloths, the profuse wine bottles, the accents characteristic of "old world charm" are renounced in favor of cool modernity. Tartini's proto-Prairie-meets-BurgerFi exterior is a jarring sight on this unsightly strip of Orange Avenue in Belle Isle, and I mean that in a good way. Out of place? Possibly. But it's got curb appeal, and in the competitive climate of pizza and pasta, anything helps.
Not that the residents of Belle Isle really have a lot to choose from – they don't – but Tartini is a good reason for Belle Islers to dine out, and on this Friday evening, they came out in droves. At first, it seemed that the place should've been louder than it was (my guests and I became self-conscious, thinking we were all talking too loudly), but within 10 minutes, the place was packed and the din of chattering families and screeching babies filled the air. Tartini may pose as an urbane resto, but it's first and foremost a neighborhood eatery, and the good folks of this community have caught on.
What they come for, really, are the pizzas. Baked in a unique wood-fired oven that simultaneously lifts and rotates the dough, the pizzas here are as good as any you'll find in this city. The blistered yet doughy crust on the 10-inch Tartini pizza ($13.25) stood up to a meaty crown of Genoa salami, soppressata, sausage and pepperoni. It was salt and spice and everything nice, whereas the Margherita pizza ($12.25), ample on the mozzarella with a proper basil-to-tomato ratio, was another thin-crust wonder. The only hiccup was when our server dropped a slice face-down onto the table. Oh, and the timing: It was off. Appetizers came before plates and silverware, and mains arrived too soon after our starters. Service, while well-meaning and cordial, lacks polish and, at times, seems a bit perfunctory.
They're not the excitable sort here, and, for that matter, neither was the thoroughly average calamari fritti ($9.95) appetizer, served with a garlicky ranch dip – a real yawner. The zuppa della casa ($3.25), on the other hand, was a study in rustic simplicity. I found myself thinking how perfect this chicken-and-vegetable soup, given a starch boost with potatoes and pasta, would be if I were feeling under the weather. On the spaghetti front, the pasta del giardino ($13.95) is a vegetarian pleaser with tangy artichoke hearts, zucchini, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes tossed in pesto. While enjoyable, Italian-imported desserts, such as creamy tiramisu ($6.95) and moist chocolate mousse cake ($7.95), were a bit pricey.
Unlike the other flat-screen TVs airing the requisite news and sports programming, one was puzzlingly airing a program on winemaking in Slovenia, which borders Italy. Then I learned that owner is from Piran, Slovenia, and that "Tartini" is a reference to Giuseppe Tartini, the Italian violinist-composer who was born in Piran, which was then in the Republic of Venice. While the Slovenian wine vid was just a tease – only Italian wines are offered here – Tartini's pizza compositions deliver.
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