Monday, February 02, 2009
Santioni's Cucina Italiana, Orange Park, FL
Santioni's Cucina Italiana
3535 Highway 17, Suite 15
Orange Park, Florida 904 32003
A few months ago, I spotted an ad for the recently opened Santioni's. I walked away without eating when I saw the super expensive prices posted outside. Several friends had a similar experience. The handful that actually dined inside said "I liked the food, but I am not going back. That was way too expensive."
Right before Christmas, I saw another ad for Santioni's in a coupon magazine. The ad had much lower prices than before. I stashed it away in my purse until yesterday, when the choice came down to Burger King, Olive Garden, Woody's or Santioni's.
Upon arriving, the comment our group made was "Um, yeah, let's check the prices. Make sure it isn't bait and switch." Fortunately, the lower prices were the same ones in the ad. So we decided to give Santioni's a try and headed inside. We passed through a foyer with two desks and displays of Santioni's coupons, take out menus, catering menus, etc. Our group almost decided to leave because there were no servers to be seen for two minutes. And we only saw one table of customers in the restaurant. But a chef soon appeared and took us to our table once he spotted us.
The first thing I noticed about Santioni's was the decor. It was gorgeous. The whole place was decorated in creams, reds, and greens. There were Italian pictures on the walls. The tables and chairs were dark cherrywood. The soft Italian music playing added to the ambiance.
Chef George started us off with a round of iced tea. (That's how the owner referred to him. More on that later). Then he brought us a basket of diamond shaped rolls and a bowl of herbed olive oil. The bread was amazing. It tasted similar to the Ramadan bread I made in October. I'm not sure what spices were in the olive oil, but it was a good pairing. George told us "We mix up both (the bread and olive oil) ourselves here."
Later in our meal, the owner of Santioni's joined Chef George to serve the food. I did not catch his name but I assume he's named George, too. One of the flyers I grabbed said "George [last name too blurry to read], Chef and Owner." Both men were friendly and helpful. Our group enjoyed talking to them.
Here's a breakdown of the menu:
The lasagna and eggplant both came with salads, as part of the early special (a drink, salad, bread and entree for one price). The salads were very pretty! The tomato slices were thick and sweet. George the owner said "Those are our bruschetta tomatoes. We slice and marinate them each day, then use them for the bruschetta."
Lasagna: Our fresh baked pasta with meat sauce, mozzarella, ricotta and parmigiana cheese
All of us loved the lasagna. The meat sauce was thick, rich and delicious. The noodles were succulent. The lasagna also had a perfect mix of cheeses.
Eggplant Parmigiana: Lightly breaded eggplant, pan fried and baked with tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese; served with spaghetti marinara.
The eggplant was thick but nicely crispy and well seasoned. So good!
Smoked Salmon and Capers Pizza
This was ordered in the individual size. The pizza also had chopped tomatoes and feta. It was well worth ordering. The salty taste went well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. If you don't care for salmon and capers, I recommend ordering this pizza with just the feta and tomatoes.
The spumoni was served in a large ice cream sundae glass. It was drizzled with chocolate sauce. Two of us loved it. A third person said "I've had better spumoni at other places. This didn't have the licorice taste I like."
This was served in a small, rectangular glass dish. The burnt sugar glaze was wonderfully sweet and crunchy. It was topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. The custard layer was cool and creamy.
Other desserts available
Mocha chocolate cheesecake, tirarmisu, cannoli, plain cheesecake
Needless to say, I was very impressed with Santioni's. The service was wonderful. The food was flawless. I plan to visit Santioni's again very soon.