Familiar flavors, famiglia recipes beget warmth at Turci Pasta | Review – Orlando Sentinel
Warmth. It hit me square as I collapsed my umbrella and entered the space at Turci Pasta. The evening was raw and rainy, not ideal for venturing out. It was also a Tuesday. And yet most of the tables were full during the dinner hour. A good sign.
It had been some time since I’d been here — Turci is located in what was once Trevi Pasta, a popular haunt in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood, where fresh pasta and sauces to go, along with gelato, were the bigger draws. Less popular was sitting down to eat, though the food at Trevi was excellent. It was a clean, white, streamlined sort of a place. A dessert or deli counter. Crisp and efficient, but sterile compared to the warmth of the dishes it served.
Nathalia Kalil and Vinicius Turci were fans, in fact.
“We’d go probably once a month,” says Kalil, but not because of the atmosphere. “It was totally about the food because that’s what we’re about.”
Kalil and Turci are second generation Brazilians — Kalil’s family runs a bakery/restaurant/cafe back home in their native Itu, a municipality in São Paulo — but both have Italian families. Turci’s from Rome, Kalil’s from Treviso. With restaurant backgrounds, and parents and grandparents whose recipes were ingrained, the pair jumped when they learned that Trevi’s owners were putting the place up for sale. That was back in 2017.
“We saw the opportunity,” she says, “but we didn’t want to change everything so fast. We wanted to see how the customers felt about it. We didn’t want them to say, ‘What happened to Trevi?!’”
Several years into the mix, though, what’s happened is they kept the best of this neighborhood cafe and market and morphed the dining piece into something homier. Servers crisp and formal-leaning in white shirts and black vests, an earthier color scheme, a more walk-in cafe vibe are changes the locals — and even more since a successful run during this year’s Magical Dining Month — are enjoying. But you can still pop in for boxes of made-to-order long pastas, pillows of pear-stuffed ravioli or purple sweet potato gnocchi, containers of sauce, sides of meatballs.
Burrata imported from Puglia, too.
On this night, my companion and I enjoyed its stracciatella-stuffed goodness atop a plate marbleized with prosciutto. Soft light and a glass of cab and the un-Floridian weather outside was banished. His white wine cocktail, too ($12) — an interesting creamy-coconut concoction — invoked a bit of beachiness. Not more than the squid ink shrimp aglio e olio ($24.95), one of several signature dishes Kalil says are more popular even than the build-your-own option.
Midnight black pasta, toothy and awash in garlic both tender and crisp make a dramatic and ocean-evocative plate with bright firm shrimp tossed in the mix.
On a subsequent visit, the lamb shank pappardelle ($39.95) made an impressive plate as well, with a rich sauce, its light sweetness imbued by honey and something else — a trace of the Middle East, of tagine, in the mix.
“Ah, yes, the other part of my family is from Lebanon,” says Kalil. “That is a touch of my grandfather in there, but the sauces overall are my husband’s. He has taken family recipes and really made them his own. The lamb, though, is a very popular dish.”
Indeed, the meat slips from bone effortlessly, beautifully, soft against the bite of the pasta. The same base matches the bite of the king mushroom in a creamy pappardelle offering ($22.95), rich with earthiness. Color rules the plate of green tortellacci prosciutto ($24. 95), something Turci was looking for as he dressed up the drum-like tortellacci with vibrant hues.
“Usually we’d do cheese or sometimes butternut squash,” says Kalil, “but he really wanted to make a beautiful plate… he went with the spinach pasta — my grandmother’s house always had the green pasta. And prosciutto was the perfect match.” Finely diced, the filling is more meat than cheese, with a light, creamy sauce that balances the bite within.
Special sausages make a nice side ($9.95 for three) with the arrabbiata — these bring a touch of Brazil to the plate, too. A little drier than many others, these are further imbued with flavor courtesy of Pecorino and sun-dried tomato.
“Brazil has a very large Italian community,” she explains. “Tuscan sausage is very popular there and this one is very flavorful.”
Business at Turci has been good these days. Growing locally and more recently due to a successful first run as part of Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining program.
“It was very good for us,” says Kalil, “and allowed many new people to find us.”
The to-go items are still popular, she says, noting that folks love to watch them cut the pasta fresh to order. But more often, they are finding reason to stay. Amid the cold snaps we’ve been having, not to mention holiday-inspired conviviality, Turci’s neighborhood comfort is as good a reason as any. A furnace stoked with homemade pasta burns good and warm.
Turci Pasta: 2120 Edgewater Drive in Orlando; 407-985-2577; turcipasta.com
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December 22, 2022 at 09:09AM