Each outpost has its own personality, but all serve the same homemade sauces and amazingly plump fresh oysters. I stopped at the Apopka restaurant in north Orange County.
Located in a sprawling strip mall off Hunt Club Boulevard, Victorio's decor is simple and unpretentious. Servers seemed to recognize everyone as a regular. The room was a mix of couples, families and a girl's softball team with parents and coaches.
A friend had raved about the oysters here and I was on a mission.
May is not a traditional oyster month. Back in the day, oysters were eaten only during months with an "R." Today the alphabet rule is often trumped by oysters shipped from cooler climates or aquaculture farms. For fresh local oysters, I still believe in the "R" rule. Oysters spawn in the warm summer months from May through August. But weather systems don't always follow our printed calendars. There are gray areas as we slide into different seasons.
We ordered six lightly steamed and six raw ($5.95 for each half dozen). The mollusks were delivered over ice in a deep metal pan with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce and horseradish on the side. The meaty portions were full in the shell and the color was bright and fresh. This was an oyster begging for a salted cracker. I used all the horseradish to kick up the heat in the sauce, slathered it on the square (it's my system), topped it with an oyster and took a bite. Pure bliss.
I could have stopped there, but the last time I check my business card I was not the oyster editor. Onward.
The chicken Victorio ($13.99) is a signature dish. What the presentation lacked in finesse, the dish made up for in flavor. Rising from a bed of spaghetti, two pounded chicken breasts and freshly sliced mushrooms swam in a red sauce similar to a traditional creamy tomato vodka preparation. This sauce had distinct slow-cooked notes of white wine, fresh garlic and butter.
The shrimp scampi ($13.99) was served over linguine. The jumbo shellfish were sauteed in butter, white wine, chopped garlic and lemon juice. It wasn't the most elegant of interpretations, but it was pretty darn good.
Both entrees came with house-made garlic knots. A side salad or soup can be added for $1.99.
But before you add on, take note: Portions are huge here. My chicken Victorio, for example, could have served four people.
Victorio's serves its neighborhoods well and that's especially evident in Apopka.
Moderately priced, mom and pop independent eateries are important to the Central Florida dining mix and local economies.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5498
Victorio's Oyster Bar & Grille
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When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday