I love the story behind Santina's.
A few months ago our business writer wrote a heartwarming story about the Italian businesswoman, Santina Julian, who owned previous restaurants in Warner Robins and Macon. After a cancer diagnosis during the 1990s, she returned to Italy and after recovery, moved back to the U.S. She eventually returned to the International City and re-opened Santina's this year in what is now a busy lunch spot on Russell Parkway.
Her longtime dream of opening another restaurant and sharing her love of cooking had come true. According to our business writer, it looks to be the prettiest dining room anywhere in Warner Robins. I agree. It's very comfortable and relaxing.
My first experience at Santina's was a good one, especially walking through the front door to a well-appointed entrance, adorned with beautiful furniture and floral arrangements and elegant decor. A striking mural of a Tuscan landscape can be seen on a far wall.
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Guests sit at a table draped in crisp, white linen, topped with flowers and glass stemware, and enjoy meals prepared on white china.
All entrees at Santina's come with a basket of toasted bread baked with herbs and butter. A side salad accompanies the meal with fresh romaine greens, baby spinach, cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, olives, Parmesan cheese and red onion, all tossed in a light Italian vinaigrette.
A lunch offering includes favorites you may recognize, including lasagna and eggplant and chicken parmigiana, topped with the house homemade marinara sauce and served with a pasta side.
The chicken parmigiana was bubbly and well-portioned for one person. Fresh warm spaghetti also accompanied my lunch serving. Another of my favorites is caprese salad, which includes layers of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, basil, a drizzle of olive oil and house seasonings. Simple.
I've also tried the pasta carbonara. The only thing I was disappointed in was that it was a take-out order since I didn't have time to dine in. From my in-house dining experience, bread and a side salad I was told accompanied all entrees. Bread and salad were nowhere to be found when I got to my destination ready to enjoy the pasta carbonara. Along with one dessert I wanted to try and the pasta, my order totalled $20.23. A bit pricey I thought, but my choice was very filling and delicious.
That being said, the pasta carbonara is lightly tossed among torn pieces of pancetta, the Italian version of smoked bacon, eggs, cheese and a garlic cream sauce. I had pancetta on everything when I visited the old country a few summers ago. I love the stuff.
Santina's also offers shrimp scampi, tilapia filet sauteed in mushrooms, peppers, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs, chicken cooked in white wine, veal accompanied with mushrooms and peppers in a white wine sauce, beef or chicken medallions, and spicy Italian sausage sauteed in a blend of vegetables and wine. All come on a bed of selected pasta.
Desserts include tiramisu, New York-style-cheesecake, canoli and chocolate cake, to name a few.
I love the house tiramisu. It was so pretty I didn't want to ruin it by eating it. A small, round coffee-soaked, two-layer cake with creamy vanilla layers. What's not to love here? OK, so my missing bread and salad is forgiven after trying the tiramisu!
I do hope, with their expanding menu, Santina's offers a limoncello chicken. I tried it once in Naples and it was divine. One can only wish, right?
Do try taking a special friend, spouse or significant other to try a bite at Santina's. It's the real deal, and reminds me of the small, family-owned businesses that drive the Italian economy. I promise you won't regret it.
117-I Russell Parkway (Kroger shopping center) Warner Robins
Three and a half stars
Phone: (478) 929-9700
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Fridays and 5-10 p.m. Saturdays.
Price: Entrees $12.95-$22.95
Noise level: Low to moderate
Children's menu: No
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Latest health code rating: 98