Mom’s the Word for Brunch

Chances are, many of you are trying to decide where to take your mom for brunch on Mother’s Day, which is coming up quickly, on May 14. Moms should be pampered every day, I think, but this is certainly the time to do something special for the woman who takes care of everyone else all year.

There are plenty of choices for brunch in Tallahassee. And I use the term brunch loosely. Technically, brunch is a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, usually late in the morning, and most often offered on weekends. Consider this explanation of brunch from “The Simpsons” character Jacques, a suave bowling instructor: “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.”

Here’s a roundup of some of Tallahassee’s best options, some likely with cantaloupe, for brunch on May 14. FYI, most places accept reservations but act quickly.

A La Provence
If mom likes a touch of class, A La Provence is a white tablecloth setting known for its French and New American cuisine. Options include bruschetta eggs Benedict, omelets, leg of lamb and beignets (savory as an appetizer and sweet as a dessert). 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Andrews Capital Grill & Bar
Open for four decades, the downtown staple serves a Sunday buffet with omelet and carving stations, plus a selection of individual brunch items. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 228 South Adams St.; 850-222-3444.

Avenue Eat & Drink
The upscale venue offers its traditional Sunday brunch, including short ribs and potato hash, wild smoked salmon Benedict, pound cake French toast and shrimp and grits. 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 115 East Park Ave.; 850-224-0115.

Blu Halo
Indulge in an opulent buffet at this swanky setting, with filet mignon and pork tenderloin on the carving station along with chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict and other breakfast items. Free mimosas for mom and a Bloody Mary bar for serious fans. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 3431 Bannerman Road, #102; 850-999-1696.

Cypress Restaurant
Chef/owners David and Elizabeth Gwynn will be presenting a Mother’s Day brunch though the menu is still in the works. Check Facebook for updates. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 320 E. Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

The Edison
Savor a brunch with lamb or Southern-style Benedict, stuffed French toast and shrimp and grits, salads and sandwiches while savoring a view that overlooks the fountains and greenery of Cascades Park. 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

The Egg Cafe & Eatery
This popular spot serves all the classics and classics with a twist, like the Ultimate Seafood Omelet; Lox, Stock and Bagel Benny; and shrimp-n-grits skillet. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 3740 Austin Davis Ave., 850-765-0703.

Fifth & Thomas
Set the right tone for Mother’s Day as the Tenessee group, Belle and the Band, performs during brunch at Fifth & Thomas. Choices include pulled pork Benedict; pickle brine chicken with Applewood bacon pancakes and a ham and egg buttermilk biscuit sandwich. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-694-3322.

Food Glorious Food:  FGF “Mackin” Cheese, pan-fried catfish, brioche French toast and a long list of other items are available on the brunch at this contemporary restaurant .10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.

Georgio’s
The restaurant is opening early May 14 for Mother’s Day, offering seafood, prime steaks, drink specials and desserts. Noon to 7 p.m. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-877-3211.

Hotel Duval
Treat your mom to a lavish, picnic-themed buffet in the hotel’s eighth floor Horizon Ballroom. Highlights: truffled hash brown casserole, an omelet station and barbecue chicken with complimentary mimosas. There will be two seatings, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. There’s a kid’s buffet and craft area so youngsters can make their own Mother’s Day cards. 415 N. Monroe St.; 850-224-6000.

Kool Beanz
Enjoy brunch surrounded by the colorful work of local artists in this laid-back space, where the menu features a full English breakfast, banana-rum French toast and shrimp and grits. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 921 Thomasville Road; 850-224-2466.

Liberty Bar & Restaurant
This is a bar but known for its good food as well as its chill atmosphere and drink menu. Sample dishes like a Scottish egg (a soft-boiled egg wrapped around sausage and fried), chicken and biscuits and pork belly Benedict. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-284-7966.

Madison Social
Expect a multi-generational crowd soaking up the atmosphere at this casual venue, where you’ll find lemon ricotta pancakes, a pork belly benny and Buffalo chicken salad on the brunch lineup. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 705 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your mom queen for the day at exotic Nefetari, which showcases Egyptian-African artwork. There are two menus on May 14, one with regular brunch items and the other with entrees like pan-seared salmon, wild mushroom ravioli and “Zen” teriyaki with your choice of protein. Moms will receive a complimentary iced tea or mimosa. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; entrees served 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Paisley Cafe
A cozy courtyard provides the backdrop for brunch, with chorizo hash, grits and collards with candied smoked sausage and daily specials. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 1123 Thomasville Rd., 850-385-7268.

Sage
The restaurant’s executive chef-owner Terry White offers a sophisticated brunch menu, with chicken and mushroom crepes, steak frites, croque Monsieur, quiche, a burger topped with a fried egg and other breakfast and lunch specials. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 3534 Maclay Boulevard South; 850-270-9396.

Southwood Golf Club
The Mother’s Day buffet features grilled redfish, an artisan cheese board, salads, an omelet and carving stations and assorted desserts in a classic space. Moms get a complimentary mimosa. Hours: 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. (regular breakfast menu available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.) 3750 Grove Park Dr; 850-402-5131.

Table 23
You’ll find sweet potato pancakes, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles and other Southern-style fare in this breezy setting. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261.

319 Wine & Cheese
The cozy nook presents grits and egg frittata, stuffed French toast and other homey fare during brunch, with bottomless mimosas for $12. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 6265 Old Water Oak Dr., Suite 104; 850-765-7053.

+39 Fine Dining: Chef Alessandro Di Maggio presents an elaborate Mother’s Day brunch showcasing Italian dishes like chicken piccata, cannelloni and cioppini (Italian-style Fisherman’s stew) as well as several breakfast items including eggs Benedict, deviled eggs and quiche. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Urban Food Market;  Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

Uptown Café
Pancakes, Benedicts, omelets, blackened chicken and smoked salmon are some of the faves on the extensive menu. Add a mimosa (classic or blood orange), a peach bellini or breakfast beer (FYI, no Bloody Marys) to celebrate mom’s special day. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1325 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-219-9800.

 

Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits

With so many new restaurants popping up in Tallahassee, it’s easy to overlook the city’s dining institutions. But there are plenty of venerable, tried-and-true choices still worth their turn in the spotlight. Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits on Apalachee Parkway is one of them.

Its continued appeal is largely due to the man at the helm — owner  Georgio Koikos, who has been in the restaurant business 50 years. When you’ve been successful this long, you have to be doing something right. And Koikos, 82, has been doing many things right since he left his home in Athens, Greece in 1966 and came to Tallahassee.

If Koikos is in the house, and he usually is, expect him to visit your table during your meal to say hello. You might say that Georgio’s has an “old-school” approach to fine dining, with a focus on quality, exemplary service and attention to detail. The restaurant “stays true to its roots,” said Leni Spears, the general manager and Georgio’s daughter.

The setting
When Koikos got to Tallahassee in the mid-60s, he worked at his brother JImmy’s restaurant. Within a few years, he opened his own place, Spartan Restaurant & Caucus Rooms, at the Duval Hotel. Some might also remember the Brothers Three, owned by Georgio and siblings Jimmy and Pete.

Koikos opened Georgio’s in the Carriage Gate shopping center on Thomasville Road in 1994, but closed it in 2013. In the meantime, Georgio and wife Karen Koikos had opened a second restaurant called Torreya Grill on Apalachee Parkway in 2002. The name was later changed to Georgio’s, too.

On a recent visit to the restaurant, our party of eight was seated in one of the restaurant’s two semi-private rooms, a comfortable space that lent itself to easy conversation. Georgio’s also has two private rooms and a covered veranda. The main dining room is filled with large, intimate booths.

Some might term the decor at the Apalachee location as comfortable, if dated, with flowered upholstery cushions, dark wood interior and black-and-white photos. But you’ll find fans who wouldn’t change a thing.

Dig In
Just about everything at Georgio’s is made in-house, from dressings to desserts. Chef Grant Beane has been preparing steaks, seafood, Mediterranean and Greek classics for more than 20 years. Italian baker Steve Cucinella makes the bread. No shortcuts, Spears said.

The extensive menu covers a lot of territory, much of it melding Gulf seafood with Greek flavors. So many tempting dishes, starting with choices like escargot, stone crab claws (in season) grouper cheeks or Greek-style tenderloin tips.

For a bit of theater, we ordered an appetizer of saganaki from the list of chef’s specials. Kasseri cheese was flambéed at the table with a splash of brandy, sparking the requisite oohs and aahs. A squirt of lemon juice extinguises the flame and adds a bright citrusy flavor. The warm cheese is then easy to slather over the accompanying grilled pita.

We also shared a generous Greek platter with eggplant moussaka, spanakopita (spinach pie) and dolmathes — ground beef, rice and spices wrapped in grape leaves and finished with a lemony sauce. It was all served with a Greek salad, rice and carrots.

Entrees come with soup or a house salad. My traditional Greek avgolemono soup, an egg-based rendition, was rich and creamy with chicken and a bit of lime — homey. You can pay an extra $3 and upgrade to a specialty soup like a seafood bouillabaisse.

We did pay $3 for a salad upgrade. Our refreshing array of greens was topped with roasted pecans, sliced strawberries, cucumber and feta, drizzled with a perky balsamic vinaigrette.

Georgio’s is known for its seafood, like black grouper prepared Greek style with lots of olive oil and lemon, or snapper garnished with jumbo shrimp and a cilantro lime sauce.

Fishermen rave that fried grouper throats are a delicacy, one I’ve never had, so they were a must-try at Georgio’s. You have to work a little to dig out the meat but it was rich and juicy. Snapper throats are also available. The dishes come with golden brown hush puppies, Brussels sprouts, rice and carrots.

Georgio’s also specializes in hand-cut steaks and lamb, both winners at our table. The New York strip was grilled perfectly to medium rare, crusted with cracked peppercorns while the ultra tender garlic-stuffed filet mignon was served atop sweet red onion confit.

If you’re looking for a lighter, less-expensive dish, try a pita topped with beef tips, chicken or, our choice, a generous amount of fried shrimp, light and crisp, festooned with lettuce, tomato, feta and tzatziki sauce.

Desserts include sinfully rich orange chocolate torte (with grand marnier), baklava cheesecake, with layers of the airy puff pastry, lots of pecans and cinnamon and a special of frozen Bavarian chocolate mousse with mascarpone Greek yogurt cream, served in a hard chocolate bowl and with a garnish of strawberry coulis. A sweet ending indeed.

Bar
There’s a lengthy wine and beer list but we decided on cocktails, including a delightful gin blossom and a summery strawberry Sangria, one of the best we’ve had, brimming with fresh mint grown at the restaurant.

Service
Excellent. Commitment is a trait Georgio has passed on to his daughter, Leni .Our server,Torrey, clearly knew his stuff, easily managing our party of eight with efficiency and charm. If he didn’t know something he found out.

Prices
Starters $8 to $14; salads $12 to $14; entrees $21 to $48; sandwiches $12 to $14; sides $3 to $8; kids’ meals $7 to $12; desserts $6.50-$8.

Bottom Line
Georgio’s is often considered a special-occasion restaurant. It’s not cheap, but it does offer special qualities — and generous portions — if you want a fine meal with excellent service.

Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth a Drive

When you go …
Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits
2971 Apalachee Pkwy., Tallahassee
850-877-3211

Hours:
4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Reservations:
Suggested.

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime Trolley on a Roll

It was a balmy day and the breeze coming in through the open windows was spring-luscious. A friend and I were sitting in a city trolley, getting a free trip to our lunch destination. No need to hunt for a parking spot or feed a parking meter. No hassle of mid-day traffic.

We were among the riders trying out the city’s trolley on Monday, the first official day for the new lunchtime service, and we found quite a few fans.

“I like it,” said Toya Owens, a human resources consultant with the city of Tallahassee. She and coworker Shanita Jones, both of whom work at Tallahassee City Hall, were waiting outside the building to get a bus to Gaines Street Pies in College Town. Both pay for parking in the Kleman parking garage and don’t relish the idea of paying for metered parking elsewhere.

“With the trolley, we don’t have to drive,” said Jones, who added that the stress-free ride gives her a chance to check out the area. “I can look at the shops along the way and find places I want to go back and see.”

It’s no coincidence that the service has kicked into gear at the beginning of the legislative session when the daily hunt for good, quick meals and parking spots can get intense.

City Commissioner Nancy Miller touts the service as a way to connect Midtown, Cascades Park and College Town with the heart of downtown Tallahassee, “making it easy to explore new dining and activity options.”

And there’s no need to worry about moving your car, losing your parking spot or paying for metered parking (in some areas).

All three routes operate from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and return to stops about every 20 minutes. All include a stop outside City Hall, at 300 S. Adams St., but you can pick up the trolleys at signs posted along the routes. You can also pull on the cord to request a stop along the way. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for the next trolley.

The city received the five trolleys as a donation from Palm Beach County. Two ride to Midtown, two to College Town and one to Cascades Park. The projected cost is $125,000 to $150,000 a year to operate the small fleet, said Edward Kring, citizen engagement ambassador in Tallahassee’s communications department.

We encountered two guys who work at the state Department of Education who were taking the Midtown trolley to get coffee at Lucky Goat on Monroe. Another rider, Sara McLain, said she didn’t own a car and was taking the Midtown trolley to get downtown and get a bite to eat before work. A few people without cars just liked the ride.

The trolleys will continue until the end of May with the possibility of extending them if there’s a demand, Kring said.

We paid $2.50 to park at the Kleman Parking Garage and walked over to City Hall to try the three trolley routes. On our trip to College Town, we had lunch at Township, sibling to Madison Social and Centrale, at Gaines and Woodward. The trolley stopped outside Madison Social, and we simply walked across the street. Easy.

We ate sausages and a grilled chicken sandwich, shared a giant Big Momma pretzel doused with cinnamon and sugar and by the time we finished, the trolley was across the street.

The city has also replaced its nighttime Rhythm Route with an expanded trolley service that covers Midtown, College Town and Cascades Park from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

You can get a real-time schedule of where the trolleys are located, refreshed every 30 seconds, and a look at what restaurants, even food trucks, are available on the route by checking talgov.com/gis/trolley/index.html. The trolleys have WiFi and have air-conditioning for hotter days.

Here are some of the dining options you’ll find on each trip; some may be a few blocks from your stop.

CASCADES PARK

The Edison: upmarket restaurant with a full bar and outside tables overlooking the park, with salads, burgers, sandwiches and specials. Downstairs, there’s the Power Plant Cafe, “energized by Catalina Cafe” offering coffee, pastries and light fare. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

Other options: Bring a picnic lunch or order from a food truck usually parked by the nearby Carlton Building at 501 S. Calhoun and eat in the park.

COLLEGE TOWN

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co: Get a bagel with a schmear, sandwiches and omelets. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-1058.

Catalina Cafe: coffee shop with sandwiches and pastries. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-999-1559.

Centrale Pizza, Parm and Bar: Italian restaurant with a retro feel. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-6799.

Gaines Street Pies: laid-back spot for pizza, wraps and salads. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-765-9275.

Food trucks: Kübano!: Cuban sandwiches and other Latin fare; 601 W. Gaines St.; 850-273-1750. Tally Arepas Tequeños, arepas and more Venezuelan specialties; 939 W. Gaines St.; 850-878-5573.

Isabella’s: Neopolitan-style pizza, salads and gelato. 799 W Gaines St.; 850-558-6379.

Madison Social: Lively restaurant and bar with a broad American menu. 705 S Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Savannah’s Country Buffet: Southern-style dishes like fried chicken, pork chops and all the fixins’. 437 W. Gaines St.; 850-224-7100.

Taco Bout It: New taco joint making house-made, soft-shell tortillas. 507 W. Gaines St.; 850-765-2008.

Township: bar and restaurant specializing in German-style dishes. 619 Woodward Ave., 850-597-8075.

Vale Food Co.: healthy bowls with vegetables, protein and grains. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-629-7529.

Yosties Chili Parlour: known for its chili hot dogs and “krack sketti” (spaghetti topped with chili). 915 Railroad Ave., 850-459-3679.

MIDTOWN

Kool Beanz: Fun, funky destination with eclectic menu; 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.

Izzy’s Pub: New, hip locale serving sushi, rice bowls and other Asian small plates. 1123 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-5000.

Lucky Goat: A new Midtown branch of the coffee shop with pastries and light fare. 1307 Monroe St.; 850-688-5292.

RedEye Coffee: The Element3 Church runs the nonprofit coffee shop, offering wraps and sushi. 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-425-5701.

Table 23: Attractive restaurant with a sprawling outdoor porch; Southern-style food and cocktails. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261

Taco Republik: yucca fries and tostones as well as varied tacos. 1122-8 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-3314.

 

 

It All Adds Up at Table 23

Table 23 has one of the most enviable locations in Tallahassee. It’s set in a historic home in the heart of Midtown, nestled under shady oaks and blessed with a sprawling wraparound porch that exudes Southern charm.

Rustic but gussied up with crystal chandeliers, cherry-red curtains and twinkly white lights, Table 23 can provide the backdrop for a casual evening with friends or that special date night. Bring the family to Sunday brunch or join your coworkers for happy hour.

To add to its many assets, owners Joe and Mandy Lemons have recently added lunch. Expect it to be a beacon for visitors when the legislative session begins in March.

The Setting
Dining outdoors is fun but the porch can get loud and crowded on weekends. For a quieter meal, you may prefer dining indoors. The upstairs dining room can be used for groups (make a reservation) or private events.

The building was built in the 1920s and owned by Fred Carroll, who delivered ice before refrigeration. In later years, it became the restaurant Chez Pierre, followed by the Front Porch, which closed after a fire in the summer of 2015.

Eight months ago, the Lemons opened Table 23, and that “23” isn’t as random as it sounds.

Joe got a job with the Bloomin’ Brands restaurant chain at age 23. He would later marry waitress Mandy when she was 23. Joe worked for the chain for 23 years (most recently as managing partner at Tallahassee’s Bonefish Grill). And Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd) is Mandy’s favorite Bible passage. It all fit.

Dig In
The Lemons have a team of four chefs who prepare a straightforward menu with a creative, Southern twist.

Starters include pecan-crusted okra, sweet potato hummus, smoked mullet croquetas and a decadent-sounding “Southern Slate,” with candied bacon, deviled eggs, Pimento cheese and other rich treats.

Oysters are available chargrilled and fried, but we opted for a dozen raw. These delicious orbs were from the Panacea Oyster Co-Op, which is cultivating hand-raised oysters in the region. We could have easily slurped a dozen more.

As for salads, our server recommended a medley of pickled beets, field greens, candied pecans, blue cheese and a crisp garnish of skinny tobacco onions, finished with a dressing of beet juice and vinaigrette. Refreshing.

Entrees are limited to seven or so choices plus specials and more casual items like burgers and sandwiches.

My husband and daughter liked Table 23’s version of shrimp and grits, with lots of shrimp, arugula, mushrooms and a rich bacon-tomato gravy served over smoked Gouda cheese grits. Not exactly a diet plate but mighty fine eating.

One of our favorite dishes was the grouper, a plump six-ounce portion with a generous topping of delectable shrimp and blue crab stuffing, served with a creamy bourbon and thyme-infused corn, so good you’ll want to lick the plate.

We weren’t thrilled with a side of truffled Tater Tots, however. They were the typical fried potato bites with a barely discernible truffle flavor.

On another visit, we decided to share dishes in order to sample more of the menu. The challenge was that two of us wanted the rib-eye (which has a Lucky Goat coffee rub) prepared medium, and two of us wanted it rare. Our congenial server listened to our dilemma and we were pleasantly surprised when she brought us two different portions to share, each half of the steak cooked with our preferred temperatures, plated with an equal amount of asparagus and thinly sliced potatoes. Impressive.

We also shared juicy, pecan-crusted chicken, honey-brined and roasted to golden brown perfection. It’s served with a hash of chopped sweet potatoes, asparagus and Tasso ham.

Dessert choices include a gluten-free brownie, pecan pie or banana pudding, parfait style, with vanilla wafers. For a lighter ending, try the house-made ice cream or sorbet (choices change). The whiskey sour sorbet has the right balance of boozy and tart flavors and our white chocolate raspberry ice cream was scrumptious, Each dessert was served with a chocolate chip cookie. An interesting, and pleasing, new combo for us.

For lunch, Table 23 offers burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and some main dishes like fried catfish or pork chops.

From the smoked brisket on challah to the hearty gumbo to the Southern “Rueben” with corned beef and collard greens (more Birmingham than Brooklyn), there’s a lot to like.

Bar
Linger over Southern-style cocktails like the popular Mason Punch made with sparkling wine, or a Hibiscus Julep. Proof beers are on tap, along with several other beer and wine choices (with nearly two dozen by the glass).

Service
Servers were top-notch, keeping the meal well-paced yet warm and welcoming, extremely helpful.

Prices
For dinner, starters and small plates are $8 to $18; salads $8; main dishes $18 to $34; “handhelds” (sandwiches and burgers) $10 to $14; sides $3 to $6; desserts $5 to $8.

Bottom line
Open eight months, Table 23 is already a major player in Tallahassee. It has the location, food and service worthy of a prime dining destination.

Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth the Drive

When you go …
Table 23
1215 Thomasville Rd.
850-329-2261

Hours:
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Live music 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Reservations accepted.

 

 

 

 

Bread, Wine and Romance

For that perfect date night, lovebirds are eager to find the ideal destination for dinner. As Omar Khayyám said, it’s all about “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

To help your search, here are a dozen destinations with the right recipe for bread, wine and romance. Just make reservations early, and let love take its course.

+39
Sensual Italian cuisine, attentive service and cozy ambience add up to a special dining experience at +39, nestled inside the sprawling Urban Food Market in the Centre of Tallahassee. Open only five months, the white tablecloth restaurant showcases elegant dishes prepared by chef Alessandro Di Maggio (including his sinfully good cheesecake).
The Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe
Owners Lynne and Bill Edwards have created a warm, inviting atmosphere that gives this charming bistro a touch of romance. On Valentine’s Day, they’re presenting a three-course, $75 home-cooked dinner prepared by Lynne plus a bottle of I Heart California wine (cabernet or sauvignon blanc). The final touch: music by local singer Bobby Anhalt. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.

A la Provence
Savor French-Mediterranean cuisine by candlelight at classic A la Provence. You can count on gracious service, an extensive wine list

Joe Rondone / Tallahassee Democrat

(plus full bar) and a quiet atmosphere to help set the mood. The pièce de résistance: additions like chateaubriand and lobster for Valentine’s Day. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Clusters & Hops
Clusters & Hops has long attracted locals with its unconventional mash-up of restaurant and retail. Gourmet goodies (wine, beer, cheese, sausages, chocolate) are up front, The petite cafe and bar are in the back. With dim lights, soft music and a laid-back vibe, it’s well-suited to romance. Chef/owner Kent Steels features European-style dishes like baked eggplant lavosh, ostrich and osso buco plus more than 1,000 wine choices. One option: You can pick a wine off the shelf and pay the retail price with an $8.50 corkage fee. 707 N. Monroe St., 850-222-2669.

Cypress Restaurant
A special-occasion favorite, Cypress serves elegant renditions of Southern-inspired regional cuisine in a sophisticated setting with romantic lighting, accommodating staff and a friendly bar. Vibrant paintings by local artists add a creative spin. Along with its regular menu on Valentine’s Day, Cypress will offer a three-course meal for $45 and five courses for $65 with wine pairing options. 320 East Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

Essence of India
Spice up your Valentine’s Day with aromatic Indian cuisine served in an exotic setting with glistening chandeliers, long gold curtains and deep coral hues. The soothing space specializes in the food of North India, including breads and dishes cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), and there’s a full bar. For an adventurous feast, share a thali dinner for two. Parkway Center, 1105 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-656-7200.

Food Glorious FoodThe place has a hidden-away, romantic feel. Adorned with modern artwork, the sleek restaurant features internationally inspired dishes (that change weekly), including more than a dozen small plates, creative cocktails and decadent desserts made in-house. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-7279.

Little Italy
Who doesn’t sigh at the memory of the romantic spaghetti and meatball scene in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp?” Share the love, and generous plates of red-sauced favorites, at this homey Italian restaurant owned by Enver Sulollari and his wife Vjollca for 30 years. The place isn’t fancy but it’s warm, welcoming and wallet-friendly. 111 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-878-7781.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your sweetheart queen (or king) for a day at this opulent destination, which promises diners a “royal experience” (There is actually a queen’s table here). What’s more, the one-of-a-kind setting, decorated with Egyptian and African art, showcases a
globe-trotting menu that includes an Ethiopian stew platter, Caribbean jerk and pad Thai. Owners Sharon and Dana Dennard make all customers feel like nobility. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Sage
Terry White (named “King of American Seafood” at 2014’s Great American Seafood Cook-Off) presents a sophisticated menu served in a comfortably classy space decorated with local art — or dine in the landscaped patio. White is preparing a three-course menu for Valentine’s Day in addition to the regular menu, which includes escargot, Scottish salmon and beef tenderloin. 3534 Maclay Blvd. South; 850-270-9396.

Shula’s 347
Snuggle in the large, private booths at this traditional steakhouse, ensconced in the Hotel Duval. After a meal of steaks, chops or seafood, zip upstairs to Level 8, the city’s only rooftop lounge, for a cocktail and view of downtown Tallahassee under the stars. 415 North Monroe St.; 850-224-6005.

Z,Bardhi’s Italian Cuisine
Devoted diners praise the traditional Italian fare and warm atmosphere of Z. Bardhi’s, a local favorite for two decades. If the weather cooperates, the lovely patio is best for courting, with white tablecloths, candlelight and landscaping. 3596 Kinhega Dr.; 850-894-9919

Rochelle Koff writes about food and dining at TallahasseeTable.com. Reach her at TallahasseeTable@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Food trends for 2017

The New Year is still young, but food pundits have already been consulting their culinary crystal balls, predicting what we can expect to find on our plates in 2017.

Predicting trends for the New Year is precarious business. As the New York Times pointed out in a December article on food forecasting, “the practice is more art than science, often based on not much more than noting what is already percolating in big cities.” True perhaps, but it’s still fun to speculate.

Tallahassee Table consulted lists from foodie sources like Whole Foods, the National Restaurant Association, Pinterest, Bon Appétit magazine, the James Beard Foundation and some local chefs and farmers for ideas about what to expect in markets and restaurants in 2017.

What will be the new kale or quinoa? Will we fall in love with spelt or jackfruit? What will be the food of the year in Tallahassee? Tacos have been dominating the local restaurant scene and we don’t yet see that trend diminishing.

Tallahassee is not San Francisco or South Florida. We have our own tastes and our own pace. But here are nine trends to keep in mind. Only time will tell if any of them stick.

Ancient grains: Now that we’ve finally learned to pronounce quinoa (keen-wah is acceptable), more ancient grains are gaining attention,

Amaranth, an ancient grain.

including kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin and teff, the latter popular in Ethiopian cooking.

Cauliflower or maybe kalettes: While it’s tough to top the ubiquitous power food, kale, the James Beard Foundation has said cauliflower is providing lots of competition, with its mild flavor, “blank canvas” and versatility. Another option: kalettes, a new vegetable that combines the flavors of Brussels

The lowly cauliflower is on the rise.

sprouts and kale. Collard greens are also moving beyond soul food menus. Tallahassee’s Backwoods Crossing, for instance, is serving pork sliders topped with collard greens.

Charcuterie: What’s old is new again. Don’t dig out the fondue pot just yet, but charcuterie at least appears to be making a comeback. The popular serving of cured meats is on the list of menu items that will impact sales in the year ahead, compiled by The National Restaurant Association, which surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation. House-made charcuterie was named a hot trend by 69 percent of the chefs surveyed. We’ve seen more charcuterie in the

A charcuterie plate at 319 Wine $ Cheese Shoppe.

past year, with restaurants like Tallahassee’s 319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe and Fifth & Thomas pairing meats with a variety of cheeses and condiments. The big-city trend of making charcuterie in-house may not take off, but local restaurants are buying meats from butchers or markets and serving charcuterie their way.

Creative condiments: Whole Foods Market predicts more interesting condiments will shake up the culinary scene this year, including black sesame tahini, habanero jam, ghee (a type of clarified butter used in Indian cuisine), black garlic, dae syrup and beet salsa. But before we embrace Mexican hot chocolate spread, “I want people to fall in love with parsley,” said Katie Harris, manager of Full Earth Farm in Quincy. “It’s so underrated and so much more than a garnish. It’s one of the most awesome herbs that’s super good for you, good for your blood. It tastes good and has a lot of nutritional value.” Parsley’s health benefits may surprise you, especially if you’ve been picking it off your plate as a nonessential food. It’s considered an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C and beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that can help protect the body against free-radical damage and fight the effects of aging. It’s also a good source of vitamin A, folate and iron.

Delivery, please: Bon Appétit magazine sees an increase in delivery-only services. With our large college population in Tallahassee, it’s not hard to imagine a demand for such services here. Penny Delivers and Doorstep Delivery are two popular examples in Tallahassee though their clients go beyond students. Hospital employees, office workers and families are among the customers who want delivery services, said Christin Wright, manager of Doorstep Delivery in Tallahassee. The delivery service UberEats has become more popular in big cities but hasn’t yet made it to Tallahassee.

Jazzed about jackfruit: Pinterest is touting the nutritious as a pork substitute. You’ll just have to get past the stinky aroma. Using jackfruit as a vegan option has gone up 420 percent in 2016, according to Pinterest. Tallahassee’s Sweet Pea Cafe, a farm-to-table vegan/vegetarian restaurant, has been increasingly using jackfruit, particularly in tacos, nachos, burritos and barbecue, said restaurant staffer Whitney Corkowski. “We use it like a pork substitute. It has a pulled pork consistency,” Corkowski said. “We may cut it with tofu.” But what’s trendy at Sweet Pea, she said, is always “what’s in season.”

Pizza possibilities: This trend uses naan, India’s pillowy flatbread, as

Homemade naan pizza.

a canvas for your favorite pizza ingredients. You can pick up naan at the grocery store and create your own combinations. Pinterest calls it a top trend for the new year.

Passion for purple: As more consumers grow interested in farm-to-table products, more restaurants and home cooks are discovering vegetables they may have overlooked in the past. Whole Foods notes that purple foods are “popping up everywhere.” These include purple cauliflower, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple potatoes and purple corn. The trend also reflects nutritional recommendations for a

A medley of purple foods: carrots, potatoes, potato chips.

rainbow diet. Deeply colored fruits and vegetables tend to have more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fifth & Thomas chef Zach Burton said he has been serving purple carrots and kohlrabi, an odd-looking member of the cabbage family with a sweet but peppery profile, that he buys from Full Earth Farm.

Sous vide anyone? This cooking technique (pronounced sue-veed), referring to cooking “under vacuum,” isn’t new, but more home cooks are trying it out and Pinterest predicts its popularity will rise in 2017. The method uses a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch that you place in a temperature-controlled water bath for longer cooking times. The method enables cooks to use less expensive cuts of meat to create tender steaks. Don’t let the fancy name scare you off.

Whatever 2017 brings in the way of food trends, we’ve come a long way from basic meat and potatoes.

 

 

Coffee from the Root

Good news for those of us who love cozy spots for coffee.

Jason Card, who runs Journeyman Coffee and is a top-notch barista, is now officially sharing space with Miccosukee Root Cellar.

Jason is a pro who prepares hand brews and espresso drinks as well as classic coffee favorites.

An added bonus: breakfast and lunch goodies prepared by Miccosukee’s owners Reuben Fields and his wife, Sarah Keith Valentine.

My friend Gail and I recently shared a hearty, comforting bowl of gypsy soup, with sweet potatoes, chickpeas and red bell pepper (delicious!) plus quiche and a light, crisp pizza.

Muffins and other breakfast fare also on the menu. The coffee shop is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Miccosukee opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Journeyman Coffee is also a coffee catering company that sets up coffee and espresso bars.

When you go…
Miccosukee Root Cellar
1311 Miccosukee Rd.
(850-597-7419)

Tour: Urban Food Market

Urban Food Market is one of the most intriguing new venues to open in Tallahassee during the restaurant boom of 2016, yet it still seems to be under the radar for many diners.

The Urban Food Market opened in the Centre of Tallahassee Oct. 2, bringing five Italian chefs and a sommelier to run several food stations inspired by Mario Batali’s Eataly concept in New York City.

One challenge is that it’s among the first tenants in the former Tallahassee Mall, still undergoing renovation. But Urban Food Market is definitely worth the trip.

In this one 22,000-foot space (not counting the three patios), you’ll find a fine dining restaurant, hot pasta bar, coffee and gelato cafe, a pizzeria, a butcher counter offering fine cuts of meat, paninis, homemade breads, a grill, gourmet items, a wine shop with rows of Italian wines and a small wine and craft beer bar.

The Italians behind the scenes are Mirko Di Giacomantonio, Urban Market CEO and pasta specialist; Rudi Sacchet, an expert gelato maker; pizza chef Ferruccio Cosenza; executive chef Alessandro Di Maggio and butcher Angeloni Maurizio. Wine expert Vittorio Ledda left the market but the wine shop remains.

The focus is on authenticity and tradition, with ingredients, even the pizza flour, imported from their homeland. My husband, friends and I have tried just about everything here and haven’t hit a loser.

The decor at Urban Food Market is minimalist, with concrete floors and few frills, but the place keeps evolving. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights, which adds a buzz. There are plans for a juice bar, and starting this Saturday, the venue will host the Brickyard farmer’s market that’s been housed in the mall’s Pavilion. CEO Giacomantonio said this week is a trial run but “we’d like to see it there every weekend or even every day.”

If you’re still discovering the stations at Urban Food Market, here’s a quick tour of the space.

+39
This fine dining restaurant is tucked away in a classy space closed off from the rest of the venue. At the helm is experienced chef Alessandro Di Maggio, who spent years cooking at top European restaurants and later was a chef for the Royal Princess Cruise Line. Here in Tallahassee, he’s creating superb yet reasonably priced gourmet Italian fare including cartoccio (seafood and pasta baked in parchment), lobster and shrimp ravioli stuffed with crabmeat and scallops and pork tenderloin wrapped with pancetta. Di Maggio’s cheesecake is a delight, light and creamy. (Forget Cheesecake Factory, Tallahassee).

The restaurant, which can seat 70 inside and another 40 on the patio, offers a chef’s table and it’s open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Contact 850-536-6843.

Digia Pasta
The man behind Digia, and Urban Food Market, is Mirko Di Giacomantonio, who grew up in a small coastal town called Tortoreto, located in Italy’s Abruzzi region. Di Giacomantonio sells his Atlanta-based brand of colorful pasta (by the pound or boxed) at a station here and also offers a hot pasta bar.

Di Giacomantionio calls his pasta bar “gourmet fast food.” As you move down the line, select your pasta. (I like the spinach pappardelle). You then have a choice of three vegetables, a protein, sauce and cheese and can watch your dish being prepared to order. Portions are generous for $9, $4 for kids. Salads are $6.

Iolo Pizza
A longtime pizza maker, Ferruccio Cosenza was born in Bescia in northern Italy. As for the name Iolo, it’s a play on the Italian word pizzaiolo, which means pizza maker.

These are primo pies made with fresh vegetables and meats from the Becher butcher shop. You can also create your own Neapolitan pizza. Pies are oak-fired in an Italian brick oven for two minutes at 800 degrees, resulting in a crisp, smoky crust. Pizzas range from $10 to $17; other items include bruschetta, calzones, desserts, beer and wine. During concerts in the mall’s pavilion, Iolo serves pizza by the slice; otherwise order a whole, personal pie.

At a nearby station, Cosenza offers loaves of his fresh-
baked bread and paninis, usually with brie, tomatoes, prosciutto or speck (thinly sliced smoked ham) reminiscent of sandwiches savored on the streets of Italy.

Becher Meat & Provisions
Angeloni Maurizio’s butcher station features steaks dry-aged with  Malaysian salts, chicken, pork, lamb and even rib rack of venison as well as a variety of Italian cheeses. You’ll also find cured Italian meats, including salami, prosciutto and sopressa.

The adjacent grill may be easily overlooked but it’s one of the nice surprises at the Market. A highlight is the grilled orange chicken (a half chicken for $10) cooked with slices of fresh garlic and sprigs of rosemary, served with fingerling potatoes. The lineup includes burgers or you can pick anything from the butcher station and get it grilled on the spot.

Fiocco
The gelato and coffee bar is run by Rudy Sacchet, whose family has been making gelato for over three generations in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy. He creates more than 20 flavors including unusual choices like lemon basil.

The large gelato bar also offers an assortment of coffee drinks and bakery items, including he cheesecake from +39.

Vinoteca Tappo
The wine shop features rows and rows of gleaming bottles from small Italian wineries. If you love prosecco there are dozens of choices here. You can also have a seat at the small bar, which serves wine and craft beer

There are also shelves filled with olive oil, spices and other Italian gourmet products.

When you go…
Urban Food Market
Centre of Tallahassee
2415 N. Market St.; 850-895-1328.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 am. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday.

+39 hours: lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday, Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Upcoming: A New Year’s Eve all-you-can-eat buffet for $30 per person; all you can eat and drink for $50.

 

 

 

Give Thanks –and Dine Out

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and traditionally, a feeding frenzy. Some love all the planning and cooking. But if you’ve decided to let someone else make the turkey and the fixin’s — and do all the cleaning up — this year, you have plenty of company.

National Restaurant Association research shows that one in 10 consumers plans to dine out for a Thanksgiving meal, and one in 20 will get takeout for the holiday.

Consumers looking for a Thanksgiving restaurant meal in Tallahassee will find a range of choices. The key is finding a place your group can agree on and making reservations as soon as possible.

Most venues open on the holiday are offering a traditional meal but you’ll also find steaks, seafood, Italian classics and Asian buffets. You can also count on large, casual chains including Cracker Barrel, IHOP, Denny’s, TGIF Friday’s and Village Inn, all open on Thanksgiving Day, to offer turkey specials as well as regular fare.

Here are some restaurants that could be just what you’re looking for on Thanksgiving.

A La Provence
The fine dining restaurant, known for its classic French and New American cuisines, is presenting traditional Thanksgiving fare. The spread features soup or salad; turkey, ham, lamb or fish (or a combination); vegetarian or sausage dressing; several side selections including roasted sweet potatoes, mac and cheese and braised collard greens plus a choice of dessert. The restaurant opens at noon and the last seating is at 4 p.m. Cost: $42. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870. Call for reservations.

Azu Lucy Ho’s
The restaurant will serve its regular menu of classic and contemporary Asian fare, including sushi. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 3220 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-893-4112.

Buca Di Beppo
The festive Italian-American chain is known for its family-style portions and kitschy decor. Buca’s Thanksgiving Day feast includes sliced white meat turkey, home-style gravy, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and takeout is available (call in advance). Cost: $20 for individual serving, $60 for three (Small) and $120 for five to six (Large). The regular menu is available as well. Reservations are not required but recommended. Governor’s Square Mall, 1500 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-309-0058.

China Super Buffet
Turkey will be featured on the large Chinese buffet. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Cost: $10.99. 2698 North Monroe St. 850-553-9292.

Fusion Grill Buffet
The sprawling restaurant, which opened this summer, will include turkey and ham along with its selection of Chinese dishes, hibachi, sushi and American fare. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cost: $11.99. 1107 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-999-8618.

Georgio’s
This Tallahassee institution will serve tradItional holiday fare along with a lineup of the restaurant’s popular Geek-Mediterranean dishes, all with soup or salad. The roasted turkey dinner includes cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, squash casserole and green beans for $27. There’s also a smoked ham with cherry bourbon glaze served with mac and cheese, green beans and squash casserole for $26. Other dishes include prime rib, Greek-style grouper, braised lamb shank, a seafood platter, cranberry sage duck confit and a vegetarian dish for $25 to $35. Kids dishes (for 10 and under) range from $11 to $14. Hours: 1 to 7 p.m. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.;  850-877-3211.  Reservations recommended.

Juicy Blue
The restaurant located inside the circular Four Points by Sheraton will be offering a prix fixe Thanksgiving menu with turkey, two sides, a drink and pie for $19.95 per person. A limited menu will also be available. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 316 W. Tennessee St.; 850-422-0071.

Marie Livingston’s Steakhouse
You’ll find a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the steakhouse, with ham or turkey plus gumbo or salad, sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and desserts for $23.95. The regular dinner menu is also available. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 2705 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-562-2525. Reservations recommended.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
The international menu at Nefetari’s, which includes vegan and vegetarian options, will add a Thanksgiving feast with a complimentary cranberry mimosa served with each meal. The menu will feature rosemary roasted turkey with cornbread dressing, giblet dressing and a choice of two sides. Other selections are pan-seared salmon, wild mushroom ravioli or vegan steak. Sweet potato pie, vegan chocolate cake and other homemade desserts will be available. Cost: $22. Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548. Reservations encouraged.

New Times Country Buffet
The buffet will serve its usual Southern, country-style items along with turkey, ham, gravy, stuffing and other traditional fare. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $10.99. 1701 Monroe St.; 850-580-1600.

Shula’s 347 Grill
Diners can savor a three-course Thanksgiving meal at this upmarket steakhouse, one of a handful of Shula’s 347 Grill destinations in the country. The first course: house or Caesar salad or butternut squash bisque. Second course: hand-carved roasted turkey with cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, cranberry apple chutney and yeast rolls. Third course: pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Shula’s will offer two servings: at lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner, from 5 to 10 p.m. Cost: $35. The regular menu will also be available. 415 N. Monroe St.; 850-224-6005. Reservations recommended.

Ted’s Montana Grill
The Old West-style steakhouse, one of four in Florida, will offer a limited menu that includes its usual burgers, salmon and bison as well as a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, two sides and a pecan apple crisp dessert for $29. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 1954 Village Green Way; 850- 561-8337.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benvenuti to Centrale

Students looking for a trendy, more upscale restaurant in College Town will like the new Centrale Italian Parlour. Here’s the twist: So will you.

Sure, there’s pizza on the menu, but diners will also find less typical items such as a charcuterie board, a porchetta (pork) plate, orichette pasta and blackberry-olive oil cake.

Centrale has crafted a fun setting to please its young patrons while making it classy enough to draw other generations. The space, which formally opened Oct. 7, is a sibling to the adjacent Madison Social and both are run by the group For the Table Hospitality, which has centralebar1the entertainment market cornered on the street. It also operates the Social Catering service, The Gathering private event space above Madison Social and the upcoming Township German pub opening across the street in a few weeks.

Centrale serves lunch and dinner and you can grab a pie until closing. Order pizza from the counter window on Friday and Saturday until 3 a.m.

The Setting

On our Saturday night visit, about a dozen well-dressed young women were celebrating a birthday at the restaurant’s wine bar or  “Somm,” short for sommelier. The restaurant’s general manager, Jeremy Fowler, who is a certified sommelier, was smoothly moving
from one end of the narrow bar to the other, ensuring the wine was flowing as breezily as the girls’ giggles. This bar subs as a community table when it’s not reserved and the place is packed. There’s a larger, second bar at the front.

The restaurant has an open, retro look with black-and-white decor centraleinterior2and old-school tile floors. It can get a little loud, but remember, you’re in Millennial territory. Garage doors open to the outdoors. Centrale has patio seating with accents of flowy white curtains.

Dig In

Centrale doesn’t have a large menu but it’s interesting and affordable, even on a student budget. The most expensive items are two $21 large pizzas, each big enough to share.

Your dinner starts with a small, complimentary bite. On our visit it centraleappetizer2was four slices of focaccia with ricotta, both the bread and cheese house-made, finished with a swirl of basil oil. Nice.

Our table shared a delicious starter of arancini, seven golf ball-size balls of risotto, breaded and fried. Even better: Dip into the homey marinara centralerisottoballscentralechickpeafriessauce.

Well-seasoned chickpea fries are good and crunchy, served with a savory pumpkin ketchup dipping sauce with a hint of cinnamon. Flavorful, and my husband scarfed them up, though I confess to craving good old-fashioned French-fried potatoes.

Centrale’s chopped salad comes in two sizes ($9 and $12). We opted for the larger version for two to share, and it was terrific, a refreshing medley of radicchio, soppressata, provolone, avocado and caramelized onions drizzled with a rich buttermilk-herb dressing that adds a subtle tang.

Another favorite: the panko-crusted chicken Parmesan, which features tender white-meat cutlets stuffed with a thin layer of mozzarella, and lightly fried to a golden brown and finished with marinara. The chicken was a hit, but a bit lonely on the plate. We ordered a bowl of spaghetti for $5 extra but Centrale should centralechickenparm1consider adding it as part of the dish. Other a la carte sides include charred broccoli and crispy marbled potatoes.

Pasta dishes are generous portions, including our serving of orecchiette. The pasta, which gets its name for its ear shape, was tossed with perfectly cooked shrimp, the whole affair in a garlicky basil pesto centraleshrimpsauce spiked with a bit of serrano peppers to give the dish a slight kick.

Cacio and pepe, meaning cheese and pepper, is a traditional, minimalist dish from Rome. This is indeed a simple serving of pasta with Parmesan Romano and fresh pepper, centralecasioypepeserved in a bowl made of Parmesan cheese. The pasta was quite good but the bowl could have been crisper. You can ask to sub gluten-free pasta.

Centrale serves four brick-oven pizzas at small (12 by 12 inches) and large (12 by 18) sizes. We were in the mood for the basic Old School Square pie with pork sausage ($4 extra). The crust was crisp on the outside, soft and chewy inside, centralepizzanicely browned. But there are other more intriguing options. You can get toppings of pork and cracklins, a pie with Calabrian chile peppers and Italian meats or the NY Salad Pie, with a topping of romaine and arugula, red onions, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.

The blackberry-olive oil cake was tempting for dessert but we couldn’t resist the roasted hazelnut and banana tiramisu with lady fingers, a big square that’s rich and creamy and oh so Italian.

Service

Friendly, attentive youthful staff. A pitcher of water is set on the table but the servers still checked to ensure our glasses were full.

The bar

Centrale serves cocktails and beer, but specializes in wine, with 35 selections by draft, the glass or bottle. Varietals on tap include a centraleexterior1
pinot noir, malbec, rose and sauvignon blanc. The restaurant’s version of Happy Hour is called “Benvenuti” (meaning Welcome) with discounts and pizzas served each hour. Drink discounts are also offered during a late-night happy hour.

When you go…
Centrale Italian Parlour
815 W. Madison St.
850-765-6799

Cost
Starters and salads $5 to $10; pizza $12 to $14 small, $18 to $21 large; pasta and main dishes $12 to $16; sides $3 to $6; desserts $6 to $8.

Hours
Monday to Friday: lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 4 to 10 p.m., happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., pizza from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday: brunch 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 4 to 11 p.m., pizza 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Bottom line

Centrale Italian Parlour is a fun venue that works for all generations. It will likely be a place students will want to bring a date, or even their parents, for a good Italian meal without driving across town.

Tallahassee Table Rating

Worth the Drive