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Italio Kitchen Winter Park


ItalioOrderingWe want it all when it comes to food.  Healthy, quick, and cheap.  Italio Kitchen in Winter Park achieves that mission (well, perhaps not necessarily cheap but it’s fairly inexpensive).  The most expensive item on the menu is $8.98.  There are actually three Italio locations in Florida but only one in the central FL at this time.  Italio is like an Italian version of Chipotle Mexican Grill.



The interior is clean and crisp with red, gray and white throughout.  You get more of a casual, urban feel here.  Outdoor seating is available.

ItalioProteinsItalioVegetablesThe basic run down:

1. Pick your style: pasta, piadina, or salad.
2. Pick your protein: shrimp, steak, chicken, Italian sausage, meatball,
chicken fritte, or veggie (zucchini and baby portabella mushrooms).
3.  Select your sauce, pesto or dressing.
(FYI: all of the pestos are nut-free).
4. Select your toppings.
(Lots of fresh toppings here.)
Don’t forget the cheese!  MMMM… cheese.  I love some shaved Parmesan.

ItalioSpadinaSaladPastaFor the pasta, you have two options (traditional or whole wheat thin spaghetti).  Piadina is actually an Italian flatbread but at Italio you eat them as a wrap.  At first, I couldn’t get into it conceptually.  All the pictures I saw had the wraps with pasta in it.  Pasta?!  That’s like…carb overload!  Well, I stopped and thought about it.  People eat rice in their burritos, so why not pasta in their piadina?  Makes sense.

So the last time I went to Italio, I ordered a salad bowl (once again).  My salad consisted of: shrimp, romaine, blended greens, arugula, baby spinach, basil chiffonade, black olives, carrots, chickpeas, cucumbers, eggplant & sun-drired tomato caponata, mushrooms, red onions, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic and parmesan cheese.  That was a mouthful! Literally.  I had the balsamic dressing on the side and I actually barely used any.  The roasted garlic and basil chiffonade gave my salad an extra boost.  The staff mixes all the contents together and I recommend getting the dressing on the side.



 There’s also other items on the menu as well such as the Italio Sticks, Calamari Misto, and Cannoli Chips.

Italio is good for a quick meal, fully customizable.  There’s even online ordering for this location but you’ll still need to go to Italio to pick it up.  It’s a healthy option to grab a bite if you happen to be in the area but not a must-try place.

Monday – Sunday 10:45 am – 10:00 pm
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Ynot Pizza & Italian Cuisine Ghent


YnotExteriorYnot Pizza & Italian Cuisine is a local restaurant chain in the Hampton Roads area.  There are five locations, two of which are in Norfolk, VA.  I went to the Ghent location on Colley Avenue.  I remember when this used to be Szechuan in Ghent.  You really can’t tell that it used to be a Chinese restaurant here.

I decided to come here because I wanted a good salad for an affordable price.  Through the power of Internet search, I found a blog listing “Best Salads in Hampton Roads“.  I saw Ynot at the top of the list, and figured I’d give it a go.  My friends had told me the “it’s good” but that really doesn’t say much.

Parking can be a bit tight, there’s street parking available but I just parked behind the restaurant.  The interior is spacious , outdoor seating is also available.  I had Alex as my server, she was very nice and prompt.  I had met up with my friends and we all ordered something different.


YnotSaladChopI came here with a plan, I hadn’t had a good salad in awhile and hoped Ynot would not disappoint.  They have a “Custom Made Chop Salad” where you get the paper and make your selections.  The salad starts off at $5.95 but with the addition of cheese, meats, other veggies, it’ll add up quickly.  You pick your greens, toppings, meat/cheeses, dressing, and style of chop.  I ordered the mesclun, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, mushrooms, bacon, and fat-free raspberry vinaigrette.  There are definitely lot of options here so it’s a great place for a vegetarian.  Yum!   I am definitely a fan!  Although the flatbread crisps on the side didn’t do much for me.


YnotDeluxePizzaOne of my friends ordered the Deluxe Pizza.  It has pepperoni, black olives, green bell peppers, sausage and mushrooms.  Her and I agreed the pizza wasn’t that good.  The crust was terribly hard to chew through like ciabatta but even more dense.  I just wasn’t feeling this pizza.  I mean I’m not saying it’s terrible but it certainly wasn’t great.  My friend typically likes to cut through her pizza with a fork.  Don’t ask me why, but she does.  And I just watched her struggle.  And continue to struggle.  One good note, this pizza isn’t super greasy.


YnotLasagnaMy other friend ordered the lasagna which included a garden salad and Italian bread.  Nothing too special about this.  I do not recommend ordering this dish.  Yes, it was a good portion size; however, it was bland.  I’d give it points for giving a comfort food feeling but it would have definitely been better with more flavorful sauce.






YnotGelatoDisplayYnot offers different menu items aside from the pizza, salad and the main entrées such as subs, pasta and dessert.  Oooh, desserts.  They have a display cake of the baked goods and gelato.  I ordered the wildberry gelato.  MMMM…  I liked the gelato here and there’s quite of bit of variety to choose from.


In general, Ynot is a good option with an extensive menu.  I’d definitely come back for more salad and gelato.

Sun – Thurs: 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat: 11am – Midnight
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Olive Garden Lake Buena Vista


Olive Garden.  Dare I say it?  I’m eating at a chain restaurant.  It’s not that I’m against chain restaurants but when there are so many great restaurants out there, I tend not to go to chain restaurants.  I can’t recall the last time I went to Olive Garden, it’s probably been over 3 years.  My last experience was pretty ‘ehhhhh’ so I wasn’t the keenest on going to Olive Garden.

This Olive Garden is located on the corner of Palm Parkway and South Apopka Vineland (SR 535), close to Downtown Disney.  Oh great, the tourist side of town.  I already had low expectations.  Shame on me, I know.  Unexpectedly, I had a great experience here.  Servers were prompt and friendly, the restaurant was clean, and of course, I had the usual salad and breadsticks.  It’s amazing, I haven’t come to an Olive Garden in years and it’s still just how I remembered it.  (Personally, I don’t get how people are so in love with the breadsticks here.  It’s just breadsticks!)  Well, I’m trying to eat healthy, keyword “TRY” and I saw there was a ‘lighter Italian fare’ section.  Now, the question is, will this ‘lighter fare’ food actually taste good for being under 575 calories?  This section has five different entrees such as Venetian Apricot Chicken and Capellini Pomodoro.  I always enjoy seafood and selected the Seafood Brodetto.  The menu description is “scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth. Served with toasted ciabatta bread.  Yes, please!

SeafoodBrodettoWell, I loved this dish.  Great flavor, seafood was perfectly cooked.  Olive Garden, you surprised me, you really did.  The only thing I would have a concern about is the sodium content of this dish, otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Cariera’s Cucina Italiana


Italian food.  What can I say about it?  It’s hearty, warm, carbalicious.  Yes, I know “carbalicious” isn’t a word but go with it.  For any individual who’s trying to go more “Paleo”, Italian food makes it difficult.  Not impossible, just difficult.  With that being said, I’ll have to hold off this diet for a little bit.  So, I got invited to get lunch out in the Lake Nona area for Italian food.  Me personally, I don’t go over that way much but for food?  Hey, “will travel for food!”  So, I get off the 417 and get on Narcoossee Rd.  You’ll find Cariera’s Cucina in the Publix Shopping Center.  I really don’t have any crazy expectations for this place since I know nothing about it.

As soon as I enter, I noticed the halloween decorations.  The staff were quick to seat me, so that’s good.  My server, Dan, introduces himself and I start to look at the menu.  I was pretty surprised at the amount of stuff they had.  Of course you have your traditional dishes, pasta, pizza, appetizers.  They also had quite a bit of sandwiches so, if you aren’t really wanting Italian, you can still find something to eat.

They serve bread with warm marinara on the side, it was pretty decent.  It’s very similar to my “panini all’olio”/Italian olive oil buns.  So far, so good!  Hey, if you make some good bread, that keeps this girl happy!  My friend ordered the Caesar salad.  Meh.  I’m not that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible or anything of that sort.  It’s just, average.  They really ought to make their own croutons though.  It’s super hard and dried like…boxed croutons.  For an Italian establishment that brings out their own bread, it really wouldn’t take that much effort to use excess bread, add some seasonings, bake it and use it for croutons.  Merely a suggestion.


As for my entree, I ordered the small “Italian Chopped Salad Flatbread”.  It caught my eye, something I don’t typically see.  It has grilled chicken, mozzarella, feta, tomatoes, olives, onions, iceberg and romaine lettuce, pepperoncinis, and Italian dressing.  The warm flatbread and cold toppings was a nice balance of flavors and textures.  Definitely a lot of flavors coming through where nothing was overpowering another. What could make this pizza any better?  Nothing.  I was very satisfied with the flatbread.  My server was prompt and courteous.  For a Friday lunch, this place was pretty packed.  Aside from the place being a bit too chilly and the mundane croutons, I would return here.

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Usually, I don’t enjoy that many restaurants in Kissimmee.  Off on 192, near the Osceola Square Mall is Tarantino’s Italian restaurant.  I’ve driven past it a few times but never really took notice of it.  I decided to go there for dinner.

Upon entering the restaurant, the hostess was quick to seat me.  The typical “elevator music” was playing, a bit too loud.  I ordered the stuffed mushroooms with crab meat.  Yummy!  Mushrooms!  They looked great although I guess I just so happen to be a big fan of garlic, so it was a bit lacking in the garlic department for me.  Sigh.


As I ate my stuffed mushrooms, the server brought out my bread.  I’ve been trying to follow a Paleo-esque diet but it can be very challenging especially being in an Italian restaurant.  Tonight, I shall enjoy my bread and pasta!  The bread was warm and served with a pesto/olive oil dipping sauce.  Mmmm..bread.  Then my salad came out, just a standard side salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Sometimes, I forget how much food restaurants give you.

Ah… the main entree.  The “stuffed basa”.  I happen to love seafood.  Actually, I love all food but that’s beside the point.  The stuffed basa entree consists of the fish stuffed with crab meat cooked in a garlic, butter, and white wine sauce.  Ah, finally, the garlic flavor is coming through! The linguine was cooked perfectly.  And a lot of it too, I must say.  Probably about 1.5 to 2 cups of pasta.  I would definitely recommend this dish.

Ah, onto dessert.  I got the creme brulee.  It’s always a fantastic choice although the one I ordered was a bit on the, charred side.  Someone got a little too happy using the blowtorch.  I ate around the burnt sugar, otherwise it was creamy and delicious.  It didn’t have any additional flavors, just the typical goodness.  Random funny story to mention, while I was at this restaurant.  I watched an older female at another table, grab ice from her cup of water with her bare hands. She then places the ice into a cup of wine and then drank the wine from a straw.  I silently shuddered inside for I too once had ice in my red wine.  Reluctantly, I might add as far as for me.  I’ll tell you one thing, ice and red wine do not mix.  BLEH.

If you’re thinking of going to Olive Garden for some odd reason (aside from the Never-ending pasta, which I don’t ever do anyways) then go to Tarantino’s!  You will get much better quality food and service.

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