What She's Craving: Italio

Welcome to my world: where stomachs are bottomless, no amount of cheese is ever enough, and my search for the tastiest foodie finds is everlasting.

The area around UCF can feel like being trapped in a gastronomic bubble, especially when it comes to feeding our college-sized appetites. Chain restaurants line our streets and trying to find a decent, scratch-made meal can be like searching for a seat in the Student Union on a Wednesday. That’s where I come in.

I’m here to show you that the Orlando dining scene spans past the borders of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail, and that despite the drive, going to the culinary gems downtown, in Winter Park, etc., is worth it for the quality food you can get for a good price.

I know I'm not a restaurant critic; just a hungry girl who wants to help her fellow UCFers eat well and experience Orlando's emerging restaurant scene...on a budget, of course!

Hungry? Let’s dive in…fork first!

This week I took a trip to Winter Park to Italio Modern Italian Kitchen, a quick-service dining experience that allows its guests to play chef with a completely customizable mix and match menu of Italian favorites. I’d heard of the establishment before through word-of-mouth, and honestly had been given mixed reviews. However, I trust my own palette more than anything. So with my infinite craving for cheesy, carb-y Italian food kicking in, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some DIY pasta.

Silver and red, the décor of the place definitely stayed true to Italio’s identification as a modern eatery. There was ample seating comprised of tables, booths and high-tops to choose from. Going in I thought I knew what I was walking into, but I was surprised! Not only did they have pasta, but two others alternatives, a salad bowl and a signature piadina, or Italian wrap, were selections as bases for the create-your-own meal. An employee, who sensed my newcomer energy, kindly offered to help me with my decisions. I happily settled on a half salad, half pasta combination.

                                                                               *Photo by Tasty Chomps                                                                      

As she guided me down the lineup of proteins and fresh vegetables, I chose a whole-wheat spaghetti with half parsley, lemon shrimp and half sautéed zucchini and portabella mushrooms*. To top off my pasta, I added eggplant caponata, aged Parmesan cheese and, since I’m a sucker for anything spicy, their prima rosa sauce, a combination of alfredo and spicy tomato.

For my salad, I chose a romaine lettuce base with cucumbers, bruschetta, carrots and a balsamic dressing. A basil pesto Italian stick completed my meal and as I stared down at my tray full of goodies, I was sure I’d have leftovers for dinner.

I must admit, even when I was in Italy a few years ago, I was often disappointed in the lack of heat many “spicy” sauces claimed to have, but as I gobbled my first forkful of noodles, this sauce was not a let down. The whole-wheat spaghetti was not grainy as many tend to be and, paired with the well-cooked shrimp and veggies, the pasta bowl was very flavorful. I also really enjoyed the Italio stick, but felt I could have done without the salad, as it was fairly bland.

In the end, I found Italio to be a great example of how the quick-service restaurant industry is evolving. With fresh flavors and a menu to please even the pickiest eaters, I recommend the eatery to anyone looking for a quick, funds friendly bite whilst in the Winter Park area.

The damage (what I paid): $12.74

Best bite for your budget: A pasta bowl with veggies or chicken for $6.98

The splurge: If you love cheese, get an Italio stick, baked cheese-stuffed piadinas. Or, if you’re craving something sweet, try their cannoli chips (they had out samples and they were awesome).

For a full menu visit http://italiokitchen.com/

Address:

276 S Orlando Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789

*They don’t charge you extra for half and half proteins, only for extra protein. How great!