Ahhhh, pasta. Mmmm bruschetta…. Tiramisu…. Canolis! Just a few of the mouth-watering delights that the Italians have so graciously introduced into American culture.
When I was a college student in Tulsa, my Italian-American roommate from Pittsburgh (a land overflowing with authentic Italian restaurants), was convinced that Tulsa had no decent Italian restaurants. While it’s true that not all of our local Italian places are 100% straight-out-of-Naples-authentic, Tulsa has a few delicious Italian restaurants. Here are just a few of my recommendations.
This elegant restaurant nestled in the back of the Farm Shopping Center at 51st and Sheridan is a recent newcomer to the Tulsa Italian food scene, but it’s arguably the most authentic Italian food option in northeast Oklahoma. The restaurant is owned by two brothers from the Ravenna area of Italy, known for its wonderful food, mosaics and beautiful panoramas. Their family came to the U.S. in 1994 and opened their first restaurant in The Woodland, Texas. In 2008, they expanded to Tulsa.
Villa Ravenna is Italian fine dining at its best — the perfect spot for a romantic date or a business meal. My husband and I recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary there. We started the evening with Limoncello drinks, a liqueur made from the zest of Italian lemons. For the appetizer, we tried the Zucchini Gorgonzolla. I’m not a huge fan of zucchini normally, but the cheese spread made it absolutely irresistible!
For the entree, I would recommend trying something unique — like veal, venison, or boar. Not every Italian restaurant offers these unique meats, and Villa Ravenna does them very well. I stuck with old-fashioned pasta, trying the Ravioli Bolognese. It was meaty, robust, and flavorful.
While you likely won’t have much room for a dessert, I highly suggest you save room for at least a couple bites of a Villa Ravenna cannoli — they are the best in town!
2. Ti Amo Restaurant
I’ve been going to Ti Amo since I was a teenager, and I’ve always loved it dearly. Both locations — 61st & Sheridan and downtown at 219 S. Cheyenne — are positively romantic and lovely. I love the spaciousness, fountains, and patio dining at the Sheridan location, but I also enjoy the secretive, quiet appeal of the downtown location.
One of my favorite things about Ti Amo is the amazing complimentary bruschetta served before the meal. Perfectly toasted bread topped with juicy tomatoes and flavorful herbs and spices! Also, Ti Amo does basic pastas incredibly well — everything from fettucine to lasagna to tortellini! I do recommend you save room for dessert — the Ti Amo Tiramisu and Creme Brulee Cheesecake are out of this world!
3. Mary’s Italian Trattoria
I’ve blogged about Mary’s previously — the charming restaurant on Cherry Street with an Italian countryside feel.
During my most recent visit, I chose the Beef and Cheese Tortellini with Pesto Sauce for my entree. It was a unique, filling dish, loaded with the tender, stuffed tubed pasta, flavorful pesto and crunchy pine nuts. The dish was satisfying and zesty, but I will probably choose a marinara sauce if I try it again in the future. Don’t get me wrong: Mary’s pesto sauce is great; it was just a little too much of the green stuff for my liking.
For my husband’s entree, he selected the Chicken Piccata with Artichokes and Fettuccine. He immediately gushed praise for the dish, commenting on how tender the chicken was, and how the skin was baked almost like baklava — crunchy, thin layers with a hint of sweetness.
Now, the most important thing you need to know about Mary’s is that they offer one of the most epic desserts in all of Tulsa. Mary’s holds a special place in my sweet tooth…er…heart for having perfected this dessert, which I first tried in April 2005 (yes, I still remember the month/year. That’s how epic this dessert is). If you’re not a mint person, then please stop reading this post now instead of guffawing at my love for peppermint. The dessert is called the Grasshopper; but never fear, it has no relation to the insect. It’s a chilled mint ice cream with a thick chocolate crust, drizzled with chocolate and creme de menthe and topped with whipped cream and a mint sprig.
You’re going to want to save room for the Grasshopper!
4. Mondo’s Ristoranate Italiano
Mondo’s on Brookside offers solid American Italian eats. Mondo’s roots are the birthplace of Italian food in America — New York City. Founder Lou Aloisio’s father immigrated from Abruzzi, Italy and became a chef in the Big Apple, inspiring Lou to open his own restaurant in Tulsa in the ’60s. Sadly, the former Mondo’s location in south Tulsa closed its doors in 1997, but much to the delight of Tulsans, Mondo’s reopened at 3410 S. Peoria a couple years ago.
One thing that Mondo’s does VERY right is the bread served before the meal. This bread is some of the softest, freshest bread I’ve ever tasted! It’s difficult to reject a second loaf if the server offers you one!
On my most recent visit to Mondo’s, I tried the classic Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs, a deeply satisfying dish done just right at Mondo’s. My husband tried the Shrimp Limone, sautéed shrimp, artichoke hearts, fresh mushrooms and diced Roma tomatoes in a lemon cream sauce served over linguini.