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A wise old bird once told me that you should always give a new restaurant around six months to establish itself before it reveals its true nature to guests. It was sage advice as the benefits of allowing a new dining experience to work out its flaws usually translate into a superlative experience thereafter. So it proved to be with our recent visit to “Itta Bena” at Pointe Orlando.
“Itta Bena”sounds like it might be some kind of Italian eatery but in fact its roots trace back to the city in Leflore County, Mississippi by the same name. The town’s name is derived from the native American Choctaw phrase iti bina, meaning “forest camp” and you instantly feel some of that type of friendly environment the moment you walk into the charming old New Orleans façade on the second level of International Drive’s Pointe Orlando complex.
The restaurant is located next to B.B. King’s Blues Club and another new eatery, Lafayette’s Music Room. Interestingly, the city of Itta Bena is the birthplace of the legendary Blues singer B. B. King so you might guess that these venues are all connected to each other in some way.
The dining experience is exquisite. A beautiful copper bar invites you in for a cool apéritif as Ernest, the restaurant’s extraordinary pianist quietly tickles the keys. You are then invited to your table to wade through the menu that specializes in great steaks and seafood.
Make sure you take time to glance around the restaurant though, as you’ll enjoy looking at some quite unique photographs that are hung at various places. It’s an interesting photo gallery featuring such artists as Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Paul McCartney, John Lennon as well as actors Jack Nicholson, Mia Farrow and an unusual portrait of Faye Dunaway. There’s quite a story behind how they came to be in the restaurant…we won’t give it away… so do ask!
A word of warning now though. The menu is incredibly difficult to select from. You will find yourself being tempted by many dishes. To begin with, we would recommend that you sample the mushroom soup or the She-Crab soup. Both with subtle flavors and both being light and extremely flavorful. The fried avocado stuffed with crab meat salad is also a great choice as is the abita BBQ shrimp. Superb textures and delicious flavors filling every mouthful.
Moving onto entrees once again you find yourself spoilt for choice. Jumbo shrimp and grits are tempting as is the jambalaya pasta but we settled for grilled New Zealand lamb chops, blackened gulf red snapper and chicken marsala in our party. Each dish was cooked to perfection and it was not easy to pick a favorite from the three as they were all so good. The lamb chops were served with a superb Parmesan risotto, sautéed spinach and red wine demi glace while the red snapper dish had a most extraordinary andouille hash and lemon beurre blanc cooked to perfection.
The restaurant specializes in certified Black Angus steaks so red meat lovers are really well covered and to compliment each dinner choice is an excellent wine list to select the perfect vino.
If by any chance you still have some room for dessert, you’ll also enjoy a nice sized selection featuring white chocolate bread pudding, vanilla bean cream brulee, Godiva liqueur cheesecake and several other choices.
Before you leave, and assuming you have driven and parked in the Pointe Orlando garage, make sure you get your parking validated. Itta Bena is one of the few restaurants at Pointe Orlando to offer this amenity.
Overall, the restaurant is a real treasure on the Orlando dining scene. It is in a great location with great people on its staff but best of all, it offers great food and a great dining experience. What more can one ask for?
Go, make a reservation and see for yourself… the restaurants web site is at www.ittabenadining.com/orlando and reservations are highly recommended. You can also call 407 757 2910.
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com