I am spending two days at The Portofino Bay in Orlando. This hotel is in the Universal Orlando resort area and tries to recreate the ambiance of Portofino, a coastal resort located in the Italian Riviera. From corridors that resemble cobblestone alleys, a large waterfront with ducks and boats, to artifacts, paintings, and piped music in the hallways, everything is designed to give you the Italian vacation in Orlando!
The rooms are pretty large and the hotel is spread out over a very large area surrounding a man-made bay. Nice touches include scooters scattered around the cobbled streets and the water-taxis that can take you to nearby City Walk, a downtown area with shops, dining and movies.
After a full day's work, we went out for a team dinner at Bice. Soaring ceilings with frescos, polished wood, marble floors and graceful flower arrangements give this restaurant a very fancy air, but nothing about the place is stuffy. The waiters are attentive and the dining room is relatively quiet, even when it's full. Bice is part of an upscale Italian bistro chain founded in Italy in 1926. It overlooks the Portofino Bay offering a fine waterfront view while dining while live piano music livens up the atmosphere in the evenings.
We began with family-style servings of antipasti. The buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad with fresh basil julienne and extra virgin olive was excellent. The Prosciutto San Daniele made of San Daniele's ham with cantaloupe and honey-dew melon with balsamic vinegar was very good too.
I enjoyed the Tartare of Ahi Tuna with avocado, lemon, and basil cream sauce with crispy shrimp. The crispy fried calamari, shrimps, zucchini and bell peppers with a spicy tomato sauce finished out our round of starters.
I went with the recommendation of my waitress for the 'the real Italian experience' in the next two courses. My primo was a half-portion raviolli of braised beef short ribs and spinach in a mushroom and marsala sauce. Excellent stuff, especially with the Amaron dry red wine we had selected!
My main course, the secondo, was Oven-baked salmon in orange sauce with potatoes and zucchini. The veal shank with steamed potatoes and saffron risotto which a few others selected looked pretty good too.