Dining Italian style is one of my favorite things to do, so I was eager to discover what Oliveto offered. The façade is attractive, a large sign with detailed lighting makes this place stand out among the others facing south Memorial Drive.
Al fresco dining is available -- a few tables are situated immediately in front of the restaurant, but the view is nothing but a row of cars, and beyond the row is an even heavier stream of cars on Memorial.
From the moment my friend and I walked in the restaurant, our sense of sound was bombarded by lots of noise and chatter -- in some cases, people were almost shouting to converse. Music played loudly overhead and the hustle and bustle of chain-restaurant dining filled the air.
Once seated, we surveyed the menu, finding the prices to be very moderate and reasonable, with most entrees under $15.
Citrus Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon ($14.25) was the most expensive and is served with fresh seasonal vegetables and sundried tomato-garlic risotto. At $12.25, the Roasted Rosemary Chicken, also served with veggies and risotto, was the next priciest dish.
We began with an appetizer, the Bruschetta "Sundae" ($6), and as the name somewhat indicates, this version is a clever twist on this simple and traditional appetizer.
This Bruschetta is served in a cocktail glass and filled with marinated tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic glaze, garlic, fresh basil and Asiago cheese. This was served with thin slices of artisan bread that had been brushed with olive oil then grilled. The taste was a little heavy with the balsamic glaze, but it did not overpower the dish.
The fresh basil brought out a bold and traditional Italian taste. A slight sweetness dominated the overall taste of this appetizer. Other appetizers include Amoré (Woodstone pizza), Asiago Spinach Dip, Hearth-Baked Cheese Bread and Pepperoni Bread.
For entrées, there were several selections from which we could choose. The Pasta menu included such items as Chicken or Shrimp Alfredo, Pesto Chicken, Lasagna, Asiago Spinach Chicken, Mac n'Cheese n'Cheese n'Cheese and Tilapia Sorrento. A Soups and Salads section had familiar salads such as Caesar, Greek and House Wedge. The Ranch Farfalle Salad ($6.50) was somewhat interesting; it is mixed greens, roasted red peppers, grape and sun-dried tomatoes and green onions tossed about with bowtie pasta and Ranch dressing.
Also, Woodstone Pizza is an option. The ever popular pizza pie is made with artisan dough then topped with whole milk cheeses and finally hearth-baked in a Woodstone brick oven. Diners can make their own pizza with the "Pizza Your Way" option or select from those on the menu, such as Bistro-Q (BBQ, sliced chicken, jalapeno bacon, mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, caramelized onions and mushrooms), Greek, Hercules (lots of meat!), Florentine, Portofino and Amoré.
Other menu options are the Brick Oven Entrees (Three-Meat Skillet Al Forno, Roasted Rosemary Chicken and Citrus Cedar Plank Salmon) and Sandwiches.
While we wished to take our time deciding what we wanted for dinner, our server seemed a bit anxious that we did not order right after ordering our appetizer, so we decided sooner than we wanted. Unfortunately, our entrees arrived almost immediately after placing our order and too soon before we finished our Bruschetta.
I ordered the Caliente Chicken ($8.75) and my friend had the Lasagna ($9.25). My Chicken entrée was sliced chicken breast, onion, jalapeno bacon, tomatoes, cheddar, jalapenos and spicy cream sauce all over thin spaghetti. This dish definitely had a kick to it. The overall taste was one of satisfaction -- the chicken was tender (just not enough of it in this dish) and the remaining ingredients made for a fine blend of flavors, with nothing too overpowering. The pasta was a bit overdone -- too soft for my liking.
My friend's lasagna was a tall piece of layered pasta with a meat sauce of beef and Italian sausage, and three cheeses -- ricotta, mozzarella and provolone. While the sauce flavor was good and quite enjoyable, there was just too much of it in this dish, and overall, my friend found it difficult to find too many good things to say about it because the pasta was severely overcooked. The pasta was almost soft and mushy. The texture and the flavor are part of the enjoyment of lasagna, and in this dish, the texture could not hold up its end of the bargain.
We did end our meal with a selection from the Sweet Finales -- the Tiramisu ($5.50). Other selections just did not seem too Italian to us -- Deep Dish Cookie, Double Chocolate Molten Cake and Cheesecake. This Tiramisu was made with layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cream and whipped cream. It was stately and most enjoyable: rich, creamy and decadently desirable.
Oliveto is kid friendly, and even offers a special menu to those 12 and under. These meals include a kid-sized drink and a special treat for dessert -- a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. The menu includes Mac n' Cheese ($3.75), Pizza Bambino with Cheese ($3.75), and Sketti and Meatball ($3.75). Also, a full bar offers a good selection of wines and beers -- we were pleased to see even the local favorite Marshall's IPA here.
Our overall experience was one that might bring us back again, but it just did not have the appeal we prefer in Italian food or in atmosphere. Still, when we dined here the place was packed on a Wednesday night with families and couples, and there was a hyped feeling of enjoyment in the air. Loud and noisy, yes, but it was a joyful noise of happy diners as much enjoying each other's company as they were the meal. This is proof once again that solid substance paired with good food can win the day.
Oliveto Italian Bistro
8922 S. Memorial
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