Orlando's Italian ~ Lubbock, Texas
Orlando's was the only Italian restaurant in Lubbock when I was a student at Tech in the 1980s. And to be honest, my recollection wasn't a very positive one. So it may seem odd that this was our final meal on this visit to Lubbock. We hadn't originally planned to go here, but after visiting another Mexican place that didn't look very alluring (in fact, it was fast food rather than a sit down restaurant), we both shifted gears and decided Italian sounded really good. Not only had I remembered Orlando's from my past, but I did recall recently reading some very positive reviews on Urbanspoon. They've been around since 1965, so they must be doing something right! I probably only went to Orlando's 3 times in my 4 1/2 year stint at Tech. We had always gone to the 24th and Q location, but I believe the south location existed back then too. In any case, we were closer to the Indiana store, and so we decided to give that location a shot. This would be my first visit to Orlando's in literally 26 years.
What's clear is that Orlando's has gone all-in for the "traditional Italian" experience: Red checkered table cloths, mafia/family references galore ("Mafia Queso"). In the 80s, there were no chain Italian spots in Lubbock, as there is now, such as Olive Garden, Carino's, or even Fazoli's. Competition has been good to Orlando's, and it's made them improve their game. In reading the history of Orlando's from their website, it appears I caught them right after their health-food stage. Which now explains to me, after all this time, why they did abhorrent things (as I see it anyway) like put bell peppers in their marinara sauce. They don't do that now (maybe green chile...). In fact, I loved their bolognese, which I had on my spaghetti (cooked al dente) that supplemented my Chicken Parm. The latter was crispy on the edges, and slathered in gooey cheese. I also liked that it came in its own tin tray to keep it searing hot. Really delicious. Mrs. RJG had "Spaghetti Alfredo" (she's not a fan of the Fettuccine noodle) with a side of mixed vegetables. She just lapped it up. Great sauce, hot and fresh vegetables, and al dente pasta. As you know, we are pretty particular when it comes to our pasta being cooked just right - and it was! We each started with a dinner salad, that featured cold crisp greens and an excellent homemade Italian. Garlic bread also accompanied the meal, but we never can eat much of that - though it was very good. We also enjoyed a liter of their cheap house chianti. Cheap in every way, but we enjoyed it anyway! We also experienced exceptional service. I'm generally happy with the waiters and waitresses we get at any place, but on this visit they were way above standard I felt.
If Orlando's was this good in 1986, I probably would've begged my Dad to send me an "Orlando's budget" so I could eat better than I was. But alas it wasn't the case. There are many things I'd love to try on the menu. They have carved out a niche that they refer to as "Tex Italian" - with such interesting looking items as Green Chile Chicken Linguine, and Down and Dirty Tortellini (with a habanero sauce!). YUM. They also make their own meatballs, and I want to try their sausage. Next time we're in Lubbock, rest assured Orlando's will be one of the meals!