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With stints at Antonio’s La Fiamma in Maitland and Terramia Winebar in Longwood, Adriatico chef Marco Cudazzo has played a significant role in pleasing local palates with a penchant for pasta and rustic dishes from the old country. Now, along with his charming wife Rosetta, Cudazzo brings the flavors of his native Abruzzo, a coastal region shoring the Adriatic, to College Park’s savvy denizens, most of whom are no strangers to authentic Italian cuisine.

Not surprisingly, Adriatico’s menu slants toward the sea, not the Abruzzo’s mountainous interior, where lamb, mutton and diavolicchio peppers typify the Abruzzese style. No, it’s all about the seafood here, and the calamaretti alla Napoletana ($8.50), ringlets and tentacles of small, tender squid sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce, is an antipasto worth diving into. The meat is faultlessly firm and doesn’t suffer from the rubbery texture that results from overcooking, while the sauce is an ideal lure for the complimentary bread.

I took great pleasure in listening to my waiter’s thick, rolling lilt, though I’m sure he felt like driving his giant fist into my skull after I asked him to repeat the evening’s special three times. When I finally understood that the white striped bass ($27.50) was pan-fried with portobello mushrooms, and not pot-bellied monsoons, I couldn’t say no. The enormous platter contained a thick fillet garnished with baby romas, yellow tomatoes and two crunchy jumbo shrimp in addition to the ’shrooms, all slicked in a garlic white wine sauce. The flavors worked well, but I would’ve enjoyed the fish more had it not been served tepid.

Terrestrial items also get a chance to shine, and the indisputable freshness of the creamy tomato soup ($5.50) made it a bowl full of magical slurps, with heavy cream and basil adding texture and pungency to the ruddy orange bisque. Carciofini “mamma mia” ($8.50), baby artichokes sautéed in olive oil, garlic and mint, were tender for the most part though a few stringy stragglers found their way into the garlicky sauce. The astringency of the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, unfortunately, overpowered the essence of mint, making the dish a slight disappointment.

 

A comforting main like gnocchi della casa can be enjoyed with a choice of three sauces: marinara ($11.50), meaty Bolognese ($14.50) or gorgonzola cheese ($16.50). No matter the sauce, the potato dumplings were perfectly pillowy, and if you opt for the gorgonzola, the rich sauce is as aromatic as it is fulfilling. Italian-imported lemon sorbetto ($7) bests house-made tiramisu, partly for its refreshing tang and partly for its lemon-peel shell, though
either will ensure your meal ends on a sweet note.

Wine racks, exposed brick walls and the glow of candlelight on fresh linens create an oasis of calm, though the serene ambience also extends outside, where patrons can dine by the light of tiki torches along Edgewater Drive. Service is purposefully friendly and leisured, but can seem a little too leisurely when glasses are left unfilled and when lags create uneven pacing. Nevertheless, the trattoria’s genuine charm ultimately wins over the hearts of diners, and the competent execution of the seafood-leaning menu is sure to make Adriatico a fixture in the neighborhood.

From the outside, Cafe Trastevere seems a little too perfect. It's almost as if a grand, old Italian villa fell out of the sky and landed on Magnolia Avenue, across the street from the First Union office tower.

Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

Cafe Trastevere also has a more spacious dining area upstairs that affords more privacy. But wherever you choose to be seated, expect a great meal in a classy, stimulating atmosphere, without having to spend a fortune.

Celebrity Delly bears not even a passing resemblance to a big-city delicatessen; there's no hustle and bustle, no rough edges, no rudeness behind the counter. Planted in a Best Western hotel on the corner of West Colonial Drive and Tampa Avenue, the restaurant is relatively nondescript in a vinyl-upholstered, Formica-table-topped kind of way.

For many fans on the west side of town, lunch just wouldn't be lunch without a fix of triple-stacked sandwiches, piled high with top-shelf meats and served with kraut, pickles, slaw, steak fries and all the trimmings. Some of them have followed the restaurant for more than 10 years as it hopscotched from Lee Road to Altamonte Springs to its current location.

For many fans on the west side of town, lunch just wouldn't be lunch without a fix of triple-stacked sandwiches, piled high with top-shelf meats and served with kraut, pickles, slaw, steak fries and all the trimmings. Some of them have followed the restaurant for more than 10 years as it hopscotched from Lee Road to Altamonte Springs to its current location.

True to its name, the restaurant is filled with portraits of famous people, from the legendary ("Prince" and "Daffy Duck") to neo-celebs such as "Mr. T." The sandwiches are named accordingly, from the "Bogie Burger" to "The Duke" roast-beef sandwich. Extremely hungry is an excellent state to be when you sit down to dine – you will not leave that way, as the sandwiches are famously oversized.

True to its name, the restaurant is filled with portraits of famous people, from the legendary ("Prince" and "Daffy Duck") to neo-celebs such as "Mr. T." The sandwiches are named accordingly, from the "Bogie Burger" to "The Duke" roast-beef sandwich. Extremely hungry is an excellent state to be when you sit down to dine – you will not leave that way, as the sandwiches are famously oversized.

There was a time when richly spiced cold cuts, condiments and pickled things were considered delicacies, or "delicatessen," as they say in Germany. That has changed somewhat, now that bagel shops are on every main thoroughfare and Reubens are available just about everywhere but Burger King. Still, there are standbys that haven't entered our culinary consciousness, though. A chopped-liver sandwich on pumpernickel, washed down with an egg-cream soda? A fried potato pancake with applesauce and sour cream? You'll find them here.

There was a time when richly spiced cold cuts, condiments and pickled things were considered delicacies, or "delicatessen," as they say in Germany. That has changed somewhat, now that bagel shops are on every main thoroughfare and Reubens are available just about everywhere but Burger King. Still, there are standbys that haven't entered our culinary consciousness, though. A chopped-liver sandwich on pumpernickel, washed down with an egg-cream soda? A fried potato pancake with applesauce and sour cream? You'll find them here.

There are dozens of you-pick, they-stack sandwiches built with ham, turkey, knockwurst, salami, bologna, rare roast beef, liverwurst, chicken and tuna salad, and more. The "Mighty Milty" ($5.75) is as good a choice as any, featuring about a half pound of hot, juicy pastrami, piled high, topped with melted provolone cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing on fresh rye bread. The meats were lean, evenly spiced and just salty enough to snap tastebuds to attention, and the bread was at its peak. Another good bet is "The Brando" ($5.95), created from thin-sliced roast beef and turkey, layered with Swiss cheese, onions and horseradish.

There are dozens of you-pick, they-stack sandwiches built with ham, turkey, knockwurst, salami, bologna, rare roast beef, liverwurst, chicken and tuna salad, and more. The "Mighty Milty" ($5.75) is as good a choice as any, featuring about a half pound of hot, juicy pastrami, piled high, topped with melted provolone cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing on fresh rye bread. The meats were lean, evenly spiced and just salty enough to snap tastebuds to attention, and the bread was at its peak. Another good bet is "The Brando" ($5.95), created from thin-sliced roast beef and turkey, layered with Swiss cheese, onions and horseradish.

Side items are a must, particularly the chunky cole slaw ($1.30) that emphasizes red cabbage, and a cup of matzo-ball soup ($2.25) that is so flavorful it actually makes chicken soup an exciting option for lunch. Steak fries are worth the extra expense, too; it was thoroughly soft and fluffy inside, crisp outside. A half order will more than suffice ($1.25), unless that's all you're eating. The only let down was the leaden New York cheesecake ($2.25).

Side items are a must, particularly the chunky cole slaw ($1.30) that emphasizes red cabbage, and a cup of matzo-ball soup ($2.25) that is so flavorful it actually makes chicken soup an exciting option for lunch. Steak fries are worth the extra expense, too; it was thoroughly soft and fluffy inside, crisp outside. A half order will more than suffice ($1.25), unless that's all you're eating. The only let down was the leaden New York cheesecake ($2.25).

Lunch-only Celebrity Delly closes at 2:30 p.m. weekdays, but breakfast is served all week long, with hot-off-the-griddle combinations of eggs, omelets, corned-beef hash, pancakes and French toast.

I'll admit it: I'm not thrilled by Chinese food, at least not the overly greasy and sodium-filled kind that dominates the American foodscape. If I'm going to eat Chinese, I want it to be from some back alley in Chinatown where the menu barely taps the English language. I've always said that you should dine with someone Chinese who can show you the ropes about the good stuff. But when I walked into China in College Park with two of my least Asian girlfriends, I learned a thing or two about the validity of the Chinese-American hybrid – Chimerican, one of my friends called it.

China in CP has one of those menus that numbers everything because there are so many items, all familiar and safe. Who hasn't heard of sesame chicken? Vegetable fried rice? Egg foo young? These dishes are so embedded in the American culture that they've almost become clichés of themselves. But what would a neighborhood be without Chinese takeout? People describe vapid districts of town, lacking culture, as places that "don't even have a Chinese restaurant." So China in CP not only fills a gap, but fills it well in its small spot on Edgewater Drive.

We walked up at night, the bright interior beckoning. As we stepped inside, we were awash in familiar Chimerican smells – vegetable oil, sesame, shrimp and steamed rice. This truly felt like an urban Chinese takeout, with people popping in and out for paper bags brimming with red-and-white paper boxes, plastic soup containers and fortune cookies.

I must mention the service, which was so friendly that it had the feel of a corner diner, the kind of place you go by yourself on a rainy night and pour out your sorrows while drinking hot tea and catching up on gossip. Every dish we ordered generated our server's excitement, along with a story about who else eats it or why she thought we'd like it spicier.

Shrimp fried rice ($6.95) was an enormous dish of tender rice stir-fried with a plethora of diced vegetables and shrimp pieces. It was exactly what it promised, except it was three times larger. For value, you can't go wrong at China in CP. A family of four could feast for under $20 if they put their minds to it.

Because it fit the atmosphere so well, we ordered crab Rangoon ($3.95), six pieces of deep-fried wonton filled with crab and cream cheese. These antiquated party appetizers originated at Trader Vic's, the legendary 1950s tiki hideaway. Even though crab Rangoon has filtered down from the days of groovy gastronomy, they are still satisfying to the American palate.

One of my friends ordered chicken with lemon sauce ($7.95), which was more like chicken with lemon curd. The chicken was battered and deep-fried, and from the looks of the heaping plate, there was again enough for three portions. Alongside it, a bowl of bright yellow sauce was goopy-sweet. It tasted just right with chicken, but my friend admitted that she could eat the sauce on ice cream.

My other friend ordered an appetizer of sushi. Now that grocery stores sell sushi, places like China in CP feel free to do so, too. The sushi bar that fills the back of the restaurant serves decent sushi and sashimi. My friend got the sashimi sampler ($7.95) with great toro, mediocre tuna flank and flavorless yellowtail. For her entree, she chose something that wasn't on the menu, Singapore noodles – one of those ubiquitous dishes – and they had no problems accommodating her request. They make it all the time, they told her. Her plate was a huge mound of wok-fried rice noodles with spicy, curry-flecked vegetables and seafood.

I zeroed in on Peking duck ($15). I love this Beijing specialty that involves a process of glazing and drying to produce a succulent bird with a crispy skin atop a layer of delicious fat. It had been sliced into manageable portions and was served with thin pancakes to wrap around it and hoisin sauce for dipping.

Although China in College Park is a far cry from authentic Chinese, it is firmly filling its small place in its neighborhood.

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