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Thursday, September 25, 2008

KITCHEN ACCOMPLISHED

Breads, cheeses and perfect pastries make it worth the stroll to Strollo's

Posted on Thu, Sep 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

We're always in search of a dining room away from home ' a go-to joint that's just as good for a sit-down as it is for a grab-and-go, with dishes evoking those that were made in mom's kitchen. If you're Italian, Winter Park deli-bakery-pasticceria Strollo's deserves consideration as your second kitchen, at least insofar as daytime meals are concerned.

The décor forgoes any frippery for a clean Scandinavian farmhouse look that's straight out of an IKEA catalog (the dangling pendant lamps, in fact, are identical to the ones in IKEA's cafeteria). There are plenty of tables in the roomy, naturally lit space, though takeout business is brisk. There's usually a line of Rollins College students and Winter Parkers gawking at the comestibles on view inside the long refrigerated display case.

Strollo's markets itself as a, well, market as well. A modest assortment of Italian specialty goods such as sauces, olive oil and pasta are shelved, while jars of lingonberry spread underscore Sweden's indisputable influence here. A nice selection of wines is sure to keep patrons under the influence, but Strollo's is really all about the primo pressed and toasted panini.

As with any good sandwich, the lure is in the loaf, and the made-from-scratch breads baked here are doughy temptations. The levain bread raised the steaks (geddit?) of the roast beef sandwich ($7.95), a toasted number with Vermont cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, red onions and a horseradish cream sauce. The filling is fine, but the bread is, hands- and pinkies- down, the star ingredient in this appetizing assemblage. Tender palates will suffer the shred-worthy crust of the pressed multigrain bread stuffed with smoked turkey and pancetta ($7.95); firmer ones will enjoy it unscathed. Other sandwich fillings such as duck confit ($9.50) and pepper and egg ($6.95) do their part to play up Strollo's gourmet angle, as do sides like hearty Yukon Gold potato salad and orange-lemon-spinach couscous. For $1.50 more, you can combo your sandwich-and-side meal with a beverage. Pasta dishes in the display case also look inviting ' huge squares of lasagna ($8.50), chicken Florentine ($10.99 per pound) and chicken bruschetta ($10.99 per pound), to name a few. The manicotti ($3.75 per roll), slathered in tangy sauce, tasted as good as it looked.

Shun all thoughts of your swelling waistline and submit to the tiramisu ($3.50), a divinely plush sweet hereafter. If you've sworn to stay committed to maintaining your Venus-like figure, a bite of the lemon olive oil cake ($3.50) won't put any extra love in your handles. The moist red velvet cupcake ($2.50) comes with a thick cream-cheese frosting and a hint of nutmeg ' perfect with a cup of coffee. The cost of a solitary chocolate croissant ($3) is dear, but I have a soft, flaky spot for those heavenly rolls, and I took one home to enjoy the next morning for breakfast. The breads and pastries will, undoubtedly, have you coming back. Needless to say, you'll regret leaving Strollo's without a loaf tucked under your arm.

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