Every time I think I've found the best pizza in Tulsa, another comes along to prove me wrong. This time it's Andolini's on Cherry Street.
The original was opened in Owasso in January of 2005, maybe an unlikely location for an authentic New York-style pizzeria. And now its little brother is open on Cherry Street, just a stone's throw (or a crust's throw) from a dozen or so really good restaurants in that part of town. I have no doubt that in terms of quality and uniqueness, they will hold their own.
Part owner and manager of the Cherry Street store is Mike Bausch, one of the brothers in the family and a 2008 graduate of Tony Gemignani's International School of Pizza in California. No, you don't go there and learn how to take a Gino's out of the box and make it come out right, this is a very technical program dealing with the physics and chemistry of dough and cheese making, proper selection of flours, the "physiology" of pizza dough and gluten, and the importance of temperature. The flour, the water, the heat from the mixer, the heat from your hands, it all plays a role in the process. The school is known as "Pizza Fantasy Camp".
Bausch got his chops throwing dough in Jersey and New York as a young guy, and perfected his craft along the way.
Only open a month, we entered the Cherry Street branch to an already packed house at 7pm on a weekday, and stood for a 20-minute wait. The kitchen is an open, exhibition-style affair, which is, of course, a lot of fun to watch.
The dough table is right by the front door and you can see Mike or one of his minions throwing dough as the night progresses. Rolling pins are not in evidence -- and should never be -- all the stretching is done by working the dough ball gently with the fingertips to get the shape started, then literally throwing it to allow centrifugal force to do its natural work. The process makes for more delicate crust with a much more even thickness -- or actually thinness -- throughout.
Plus, it's just cool to watch pizza get made this way.
The entire kitchen is set up around a revolving oven, and orders are fed to the cook as they are placed by a number of black-clad servers as they work the dining room. A baked pasta or eggplant Parmesan may come to the cook from the back, and pie may arrive via the side door of the oven where the guy working the make table inserts it into his own door. Any way you look at it, it's a hot, grueling job, and not something to trust the new kid to. It takes a lot of finesse, timing and heat tolerance to do it well.
A banquette runs the entire length of one wall, and the windows to the outside are slightly higher than they intuitively feel like they should be because of the incline of Cherry Street at this point, so as people walk by Andolini's on the sidewalk of Trenton Avenue, you have the definite feeling that you are in a basement pizzeria.
Two and four-top tables line the entire banquette with very little space between them. No one does the social aspect of dining quite like the Italians, and it is a wonderfully communal feeling to dine this way. There are no TV's playing football games or reruns of Gunsmoke, just good, friendly, intimate conversation. We enjoyed great conversation with the people on both sides of us, and it was a truly excellent enhancement to what would turn out to be an outstanding meal.
Our server did a serviceable of taking care of us and the other tables nearby.
We started with a pair of appetizers, and folks, don't be fooled here by the word appetizers. Not to take anything away from Andolini's pizza sales here, but these two apps could have easily been a meal. Both were fantastic enough on their own to be memorable without a great pie to follow.
First was an elaborate take on a classic caprese salad. Entitled simply a Caprise Antipasto, it was a work of art made with house-made mozzarella, Kalamata olives, huge strips of portabella mushrooms, quartered artichoke hearts, prosciutto, beautiful shaved Pecorino Romano, sliced tomatoes and a balsamic syrup that was so full of body and sweetness it could have been drizzled over ice cream and grilled peaches and served for dessert.
Eggplant Parmesan, an Italian classic associated with Naples and southern Italy, is generally a layered casserole of fried eggplant, red sauce, cheeses and often hard-boiled eggs. The eggplant can be grilled, dipped in egg, breaded and fried, pan-seared or prepared in any number of ways. The problem with eggplant parmesan in a restaurant or ala carte setting is that you have to bake the casserole ahead of time, cool it, cut it, and re-heat it to order.
Andolini's has skirted the classic method by frying the generous slices of eggplant, coated in crispy breadcrumbs to order -- immediately after you order it. The eggplant slices are shingled alternately with slices of beautiful mozzarella, topped with a very smooth and tasty sauce and delivered it to your table hot and crisp. It's absolutely fantastic. The eggplant was sweet and soft in the middle, crisp and delicious on the outside, the cheese was gooey yet still firm, and the sauce was so smooth there was not a bit of acidity. Undertones of fresh basil complimented and made this appetizer a winner.
Our salad was called the Genaro, a combination of brie, Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts and honey vinaigrette tossed with spring greens. It was fantastic, with just the right amount of dressing with a perfect blend of vinegar and honey for balance.
Dough My Goodness.
I won't even begin to try and list all the specialty pizzas, sandwiches, Stromboli and calzone available at Andolini's, but I will say that the one we had -- the Rustica -- was fabulous. A blend of ricotta, mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, prosciutto and fresh spinach is a great combination. We joked with a guest at the next table who has already been in four times and ordered the Rustica, that the dish would be best described as "calzone meets pizza" since a 14-inch pie starts with probably an 18 or 19-inch crust.
You won't find mainstream, domestic beers at Andolini's. You will find almost 25 brews and microbrews on tap, and plenty of nice liquors and wines as well. This is a family atmosphere, so there are no drunks yelling at their favorite football team or people doing body shots or sake bombs.
The atmosphere at Andolini's is very conducive to great conversation, fantastic food and an excellent social experience. This is a great pizzeria, run by an authentic pizzaiolo practicing his craft and making people happy one pie at a time.
Share this article: