Oftentimes, visiting an Italian restaurant poses the question of authenticity. Olive Garden, Carabba’s, Macarroni Grill, and other Italian restaurant chains can be favorites to some, but culinary monstrosities to others. Located in a busy shopping center in a high traffic area, Mozzarella is just off of the Palmetto Expressway and 36th street. I was surprised to see business booming in the middle of the week, but the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner and seemingly caters to business professionals in the area. I was slightly perturbed by two aspects early on in my visit. To begin, I walked in to find a buffet-style steam table which made me wonder how much food was freshly prepared. In addition, I was served water in a plastic cup. It was sturdy, yet disposable nonetheless. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my server was and spoke Italian. Not only this, but the two gentleman seated at the next table were conversing in Italian. I might as well have been at a small eatery near the Roman Colosseum!
Now, if you are a fan of an insalata caprese, you just might love this burrata as much as I did. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese which is mostly composed of mozzarella with the center being a combination of mozzarella and cream. Oh and when I cut into the burrata and that delicious cream oozed out and mixed with the olive oil, it was heaven. The burrata, tomatoes, and bed of greens were simply dressed with good olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. And, it needed nothing further. Each component complemented the other and boy, was that burrata fresh.
After my delicious appetizer, I was ready for a hearty entrée. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of presentation and both my chicken Marsala and penne Bolognese were underseasoned. The flavor was ever present and my dish did not come from the aforementioned buffet table and these were both positives. In addition, the sauce of a chicken Marsala is traditionally made with mushrooms, yet there was no fungus in sight. My penne pasta though, was cooked to a perfect al dente.
I was not sure how possible it was going to be to fit in dessert, but I am glad I did. I had a chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream and a red wine reduction accompanied by a frothy cappuccino. Now, it is a personal dislike, but I am not a fan of the texture which comes along with dense, nearly flourless cakes. In this case, the ice cream nicely rounded out the textural issues and the torte had just the right amount of sweetness. Furthermore, the red wine reduction was sinful; it brought the dessert to completion.
Several aspects of my dining experience at Mozzarella made up for the minor departments in which it lacked. Unfortunately, my meal did not consist of the best Italian food I have enjoyed, but good flavor and authenticity could not be questioned. In addition, good service like the kind rendered at Mozzarella, can never be overlooked as it plays a key role one’s dining experience. On a scale from one to four mouthfuls, one being poor and four being excellent, Mozarella was rather good, earning three mouthfuls.