You've experienced this scene before. An absurdly attentive waiter with a thick Italian accent keeps returning to a flabbergasted customer's table, bearing plate after plate of delicacies in quantities no ordinary diner could possibly deserve.
Got it? It's a bit in Albert Brooks' great film comedy Defending Your Life. ("You like pies? I'm a-gonna bring you nine pies.") Now, Altamonte-area gourmands get to experience the fantasy for real with the opening of Terramía Winebar/Trattoria, restaurateur Rosario Spagnolo's follow-up to Winter Park's Allegria. And as in Brooks' vision, the beautiful excess starts with the very first course.
At least it does if you opt for the trademark "antipasto Terramía" ($8.50), the first in a series of lucky orders we placed on a recent visit. We were beyond pleased with the initial plateful of warm-up foods, which ran the gamut from succulent roasted peppers to an octopus and-cucumber medley that was delightfully chewy. But no sooner had we conquered that formidable array than our waiter arrived brandishing a second platter of bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including savory chopped mushrooms and a terrific corn polenta with a full-bodied, cheesy flavor. We glanced toward a table to the immediate right of the front door, where all the available antipasto items were laid out for perusal. The sight made us worry that we'd be fending off new arrivals until kingdom come. Where would we find room for the nine pies?
It was all we could do to dig into the "insalata Terramía" ($5.50), whose sun-dried tomato vinaigrette turned out to be that sought-after miracle of salad dressings: oily in taste but not in texture.
We recovered in time for the entrees. We noticed that our chosen pasta dish, the homemade tagliolini with grilled shrimp and cherry tomatoes ($14.50), was served in a tortilla shell that struck us as more south-of-the-border than Mediterranean. Our waiter, acknowledging the incongruity, said the flaky horn of plenty was mostly "for show." (Eat it anyway.)
The tasty dish arrived on two plates, simply because we had mentioned our desire to share our meal. Impressive. Similar bifurcation was visited upon the roasted chicken breast ($13.50), whose embellishment with Parma prosciutto and fontina cheese enhanced its mouth-watering moistness. In each case, the "sharing plate" could have passed for a full order.
That aura of lavishness persisted unto dessert, with the berry cake ($5.95) overflowing with fruit. The creamy cannoli ($5.95) was separated into portions of about two bites each perhaps in recognition of the dining axiom that, all other things being equal, folks don't feel so guilty about wolfing down food that comes in sections.
The excellence of the service was codified during the coffee course, when our waiter took it upon himself to replace the saucer right out from under our cup, merely because he noticed that it had been defiled by spilled beverage. Yeah, that sort of thing can just ruin a dinner.
If you can manage to avert your gaze from your plate at any time during your meal and somehow, we managed to you'll notice that Terramía's interior design makes the most of its location in an Altamonte strip mall ("just past Pebbles," a voice on the phone had clarified talk about being unafraid of the competition). Laid out in an L-shaped arrangement that makes the halves of the seating area nearly invisible to each other, it's lit predominantly by low-hanging, red-hued fixtures that impart a mood of cozy intimacy. The room is dominated by a large wooden bar bearing bottles upon bottles of the vino that accounts for 50 percent of the establishment's identity. (Confused? Check out that name again.) But there's still room in the corner for a musician to wheeze background melodies out of everybody's favorite instrument, the accordion. (Look carefully, and you may notice that the music doesn't always stop exactly when he does. Technology: It's a good thing.)
Still, authenticity is a big issue at Terramía. Our server hailed from Naples, which he proved by reciting the day's specials in a dialect so old-country rich that we could just about make out the base ingredient of each concoction. Not that it mattered; we got the impression that taking a chance on any given menu item would have yielded equally satisfactory results. Maybe he was just asking if we liked pies.
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