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Showing promise

Bryan Miller honored his Uncle Giovanni; he named his latest restaurant after him. Miller, an original owner of Positano's on Orlando's westside, and the Nikolaja brothers (whose family and recipes hail from Northern Italy) have enjoyed a successful year at their latest venue, Giovanni's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria.

Located in the University Palms Shopping Center, it’s bright and immaculate with minimalist décor: small tiles of ceramic floor covering, comfy booth seating, pale walls, a wide window-front, a few pictures, some plants, a shiny deli case, and BUSTLE. Our busy server was friendly, in that brash New York kind of way, and after a too-long wait for bread and water, she was efficient.

Appetizers ($3.95-$5.95) range from simple mozzarella sticks ($4.25) to the chef's baked clams oreganata ($5.95). We shared an enjoyable version of tomato bruschetta, heaped with diced tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes and crumbles of not-too-salty mozzarella.

Salad lovers can choose from standard favorites ($2.50-$6.95): Caesar, spinach, chicken, tuna or chef. Our house salads were a fresh mix of greens, tomato, cucumber and carrots.

We looked forward to the soup course ($2.50) that chilly night and tried the minestrone. It did the job, acceptable in a nondescript sort of way.

There's an interesting menu division of pastabilities: ziti, spaghetti or linguini can be had with any of seven sauces ($6.50-$7.75), from broccoli in garlic and oil to traditional tomato. A half-dozen baked pasta recipes ($7.25-$7.95) include those combinations you know and love: stuffed shells, ravioli, lasagna.

For the eight-item "pasta alla Giovanni" list ($8.50-$8.95), try the capellini primavera in a nicely spiced light sauce. For heartier appetites, the paglia fieno papalina combines green and white pasta with ham, mushrooms and peas, all in a tomato sauce with cream.

Among the calzones, the vegetarian version ($5.75) was a tasty, steaming combination of green peppers, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, olives and onions.

Unlike most aficionados of Italian food, I'm not a tiramisu freak, but I have to say Giovanni's version ($3.25) could make me convert.

Importantly, the owner is on the premises here, and – especially with an eye toward a franchise business – aims to please. And if he promised Uncle Giovanni that in his name he'd dish up family-type food, he's done him right.

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