To say I was reluctant to try another mediocre Italian restaurant is a total understatement, but Cafe Panuzzo’s came highly recommended. Upon entry, the aromas arrived to welcome us, warm dark wood, festive holiday decorations, and the staff was, smiling when greeting our party.
After being seated, our server arrived introduced himself, gave us the food and cocktail menu and was wise enough to leave us while he assembled the water. By the time he returned we were ready to give our drink and appetizer orders. Everything was falling into place. With drinks in front of us, we ordered our food, asking that the entrees be held until we finished the first round of food. When the food began arriving, it was evident where the teasing aromas were coming from once the Garlic Knots arrived, toasty brown brushed with olive oil and liberally sprinkled with finely diced fresh garlic, and steaming bowl of Pasta Fagioli, with a liberal amount of shaved Parmesan full with white beans in a tasty tomato base broth.
A third option a beautifully assembled Caprese salad that was a shared dish we found difficult to resist. Tomatoes plump and tasty, topped with a generous helping of Mozzarella cheese, and liberally sprinkled with fresh basil.
As agreed, once the plates were cleared out server brought our entrees. One steaming hot from the oven Baked Lasagna with meat sauce, the other one of my favorite but simple Linguini Aglio E Olio.
The Lasagna was one of the best I have experienced in all my years of questing for good Italian food. Layered with flavorful ricotta cheese and pasta with a meat sauce that was chocked full of sweet ground beef, then baked with a liberal amount of Mozzarella cheese. The red sauce was so vibrant and just right for dipping.
My choice was perfect, steamy al dente noodles, covered with high-grade olive oil and crushed garlic. The only thing I added was hot crushed red pepper. It was almost spiritual the food so good yet so simple.
No Italian meal is complete for me without my favorite Cannoli, tonight we had a difficult decision, chocolate or plain. Well, our answer was both please, and happy we were with our choices. The shells were light and crispy, with a stuffing that is made in-house was firm and sweet. The portions were way beyond what is normally served.
So here is our verdict, if I lived in Orlando, it would require a visit at least once a week. Everything about this visit was fantastic, ambiance, service food and price. I will be back in the area in a few weeks, and it’s already on my go-to list.