Prato (124 North Park, Avenue, Winter Park, FL), because of its association with LUMA on Park, arguably one of the best restaurants in the Greater Orlando area, was highly anticipated by the restaurant-going community so it did not require a lot of effort from @wineontheway to gain my agreement to visit the restaurant on Thursday last to celebrate Mrs@wineontheway's birthday. The restaurant had had two soft-opening events on the prior Saturday and Monday and was now open to the general public.
Prato seeks to "... seamlessly blend Italian classics with modern techniques and seasonal ingredients" in order to meet a perceived market need. The restaurant is managed by Concentrics Hospitality Solutions (also manages LUMA), the sister organization to Atlanta-based Concentrics Restaurants, itself the owner of concept restaurants such as ONE. midtown kitchen, TWO. urban licks, and Tap. The chef at Prato is Brandon McGlarney (also the chef at LUMA) with Matthew Cargo as the chef di cuisine. The restaurant features a long bar, two Acunto wood-burning ovens imported from Naples (Italy not Florida), and patio seating. Our long-term positive experiences at LUMA had us anticipating a stellar evening.
Dinner was at 7:00 pm and we arrived on time. I was pleased to see that the restaurant provided complimentary valet service because that section of Park Avenue is a parking wasteland. My first view of the restaurant was of the outside seating area which appeared to be pretty well full. The signage on the building was understated and subtly lit. The French doors had been retracted and this allowed a clear view deep into the restaurant.
We made our way to the Greeter's Station to see if our party had arrived. They had and we were shown to the table. I noticed the bar as we were being taken to our seats. It ran almost the entire length of the front section of the restaurant, was well lit and stocked, and had three wide-screen TVs at the topmost portion of each side.
We sat down and exchanged pleasantries with our dinner companions and proceeded to open a bottle of 1995 Ducru. The menu was on the table and, upon examination, seemed to have a more-than-adequate selection of trattoria-style offerings. The beverage selection was on the back of the menu and I was impressed to see two (count them, two) Franciacorta selections: Bellavista Cuvee Brut NV and Ca' del Bosco Cuvee Prestige NV. These guys were cooking with gas.
We ordered two Roast Pumpkin soups for our starters while the @wineontheways ordered Chicken Wing Candito and Escarole Caesar. The chicken and salad arrived before the soups so we all dug into the chicken while we waited. One soup arrived. Where was the other? The waitress had not heard my order so had not placed it. But, no worries. She would order it straight away. It took another 15 minutes before the soup finally appeared and by this time the @wineontheway entrees had arrived.
For our main course we had ordered a Roast Chicken for two with Broccoli Siciliano and Marble Potatoes. When the dish arrived it was very salty so we told the waitress to take it back and we would have two orders of the Chicken Candito instead (They had been excellent first time around; slightly crispy on the outside with a tasty topping and presented in a skillet sans handle.). Shortly after we sent the Roasted Chicken back, a second Roasted Chicken order showed up. We are perplexed. We explained to the server that we had already received our order, rejected it, and re-ordered so there was no way that this order was ours. She appeared confused but we could provide no further assistance. About 10 minutes later a second server appeared with another order of Roasted Chicken and we had to go through the spiel once again. He looked even more mystified. All the while we were still awaiting the two orders of Chicken Candito. It finally arrived but it was on a white plate -- rather than the skillet -- and it appeared to be undercooked vis a vis the first order. We finally requested a manager. He listened to our concerns with a sympathetic demeanor then took the chicken away with a promise to set things right.
At this time our server tells us that we probably should have gotten the special. What special, I ask. She takes a note pad out of her apron pocket and proceeds to read the daily specials to me. I point out to her that those are normally shared with customers prior to ordering rather than after they have returned two separate orders to the kitchen. After what seemed like a lifetime, the Candito Chicken arrived. It was good but it could not salvage the evening.
While I was disappointed with my food experience I know that this team will whip things into shape sooner rather than later. There are some things, however, which may require a hard second look. For example, the bar is impressive but there is very little space between it and the seats on its north side; and the problem is compounded by oversized barstools. If someone is standing and speaking to a person sitting at the bar, the passageway is effectively blocked. If the server is taking an order, the passageway is blocked. The busboys have to pass the empty plates over the heads of the customers as they take dirty stuff towards the back. This state of affairs will result in customer dis-satisfaction over the long haul if allowed to continue.
I also had some issue with the chairs used for outside seating. These plastic chairs are bright red in color and appear cheap and insubstantial next to the polished brown wood of the tables. I am not a design expert so I could be wrong on this one but I did find the contrast jarring.
Because of the positioning of the TVs, they can be comfortably viewed from the booths adjacent to the bar. Patrons seating at the bar, however, have to look up to view the TV in a fashion that would eventually put strain on the neck muscles.
I will give the restaurant a little time and then revisit. This is a deep-pocketed organization so they will keep at it until they get it right. The owners and management team have a reputation for quality and that will shine through once the bugs are zapped. It will be interesting to see if/how the structural issues are handled.