Tuesday 3 March 2009

Fuggedaboudit: Bathroom at Pannullo's Makes Offer You Can't Refuse

Pannullo's Italian Restaurant
216 S Park Ave
Winter Park, FL USA

Where is it?

This is a pretty small, narrow place -- about as close to a authentically sized New York City restaurant as you will probably find in Orlando. Really, it's just a long, thin rectangle, with a thinner central area that makes room for a semi-open kitchen.

To find the bathroom, head through the outdoor seating area up front, straight past the hostess station, to the very rear of the place -- the back, left corner to be specific. Once there, head past the waitress station and look on your left -- the entrance to the bathrooms will be there.

What's it like?

This semi-upscale joint, located on swanky Park Avenue in Winter Park, is one of the city's more reliable spots for decent everyday Italian food. Think of it as a neighborhood pizzeria that's raised the quality of food a beyond the standard pizzeria fare.

Inside, it looks much like a Manhattan restaurant, with brick walls, dim lighting, and a somewhat crammed dining room that (in my opinion) packs in a few too many tables for its own good. But the food is good and well-priced and the service is commendable. The pizza baked here is some of the best in the city (at least in my top 5) and the pasta dishes (including a wonderful ravioli terracina -- ravioli stuffed with mushroom and spinach) and sandwiches (a terrific meatball Parmesan sub) are baked on fresh bread and are definitely a cut above from the standard sub shop or chain pizza house.

The crowd here ranges from regulars and families to see-and-be-seen types (it is Park Avenue) and college kids. Definitely worth a stop if you're in the area. If only the dining room were a little roomier.....

The bathrooms poke a lot of fun at the criminal end of the Italian-American persona, as the green-painted walls are covered with the names of various gangsters and characters (and, in one case, Donnie Brasco, who was an undercover cop masquerading as a gangster, but who wants to quibble with specifics, considering the subject matter, right?).

As such, as you peruse the walls here, you see names like "Sonnie the Bull," "Moe Greene" (from the Godfather), "Bugsy Seigel," and aforementioned "Donnie Brasco" and many more. It's a cute gimmick that will make any mob movie fan smile. (Coincidentally, the motif would pair nicely with a visit to the bathroom at NYPD Pizza in Downtown Orlando, since that bathroom has been designed on a classic NYC police station. As for who has a better pizza.... that's a debate best left to another setting.)

The facilities themselves, like the dining room, are a little tight-fitting. Not as tight as Club Quarters Philadelphia or at Petro Palace lobby or the SkyBar in St. Petersburg, Russia, but still a bit too tight for it's own good, especially if there is more than one person inside at a time.

The layout, like the dining room, is that of a long, thin rectangle. Upon entering, you'll see a sink station across from you, in the back corner. It's got a porcelain vanity, with a funky-framed mirror overhead and a cabinet underneath. Off-white tile covers the area immediately around the sink -- sort of like a splash-proof zone (the designers at the Lotus Blossom Cafe in Disney's EPCOT might want take note of the effectiveness of this setup). Above that, as with the rest of the upper walls of the place, are the painted green walls with the names of the mobsters on it.

In the front is an old-fashioned urinal that stretches to the floor -- combined with the tile work (which mixes straight block tiles with a wavy-lined pattern highlight), the place gives off the look and feel of an old-fashioned toilet chamber. Mind you, it's not as successful as, say, Montparnasse 1900 in Paris or Philadelphia's Davio's, but certainly more than Columbia Restaurant Celebration, which promised an old-fashioned bathroom atmosphere but didn't deliver at all.

The toilet stall is in the middle of the place, kind of pushed in between the sink and urinal. As said, it's pretty tight in here.

It's also a bit noisy, since the entrance is set right across from the main waitress station, which is behind the bar against the back wall and the drink filling station. To get here, you will probably have to dodge a few waiters.

It's clean for the most part, however. I didn't spot any spilled water or paper, but I did find a napkin left behind on the sink station. Considering the charm of the place, I said, "Fuggedaboudit."

Marks out of 10:

7. A fun place, but also a bit too crammed and noisy. Almost an 8, but I just couldn't do it.

Comments to the Management:

Seeing that you probably can't make it any bigger, perhaps add some music in here, to lessen the noise factor. Otherwise, kudos on the clever design.

No comments: