POSTED ON AUGUST 18, 2010:
With authentic cooking and atmosphere, Piatto leaves little to the imagination
It seems unlikely that some of the best food I have had in a long, long time would come from a restaurant in a shopping center on the corner of 71st St. and Highway 75. But that is in fact exactly what happened on a recent visit to Piatto Cucina Italina.
Partners Marcia Harris and Angelo Amabile have graced us with a golden nugget of regional Italian excellence right here in Tulsa after selling their successful restaurant in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Thanks to local Realtor Pat Kromminga who spends time in that area, they were finally convinced that Tulsa was the place they needed to be -- and that Tulsa needed them.
In addition to Angelo, the real star of the show seems to be Chef Giuseppe Greco from a little town in Sicily by the name of Carini. The food he produces in his kitchen is amazing. I haven't had such authentic Italian cuisine since we were in Rome.
It is subtle in that nothing stands out as the dominant flavor, yet everything plays its proper role with excellent precision, contributing to an overall taste that is near perfection time after time. This is the sign of a true "elemental" chef. One that is self-confident enough to let the flavors of the natural ingredients speak for themselves rather than overpowering them with a multitude of spices and seasonings.
We started with a pair of antipasti, which essentially means "before the pasta" or meal. (A single one would be an antipasto).
Arancini is our first choice. The chef cuts it in half for service, and the cross section is beautiful to view. A nucleus of seasoned meat is surrounded with a thick ring of rice studded with bits of fresh mozzarella and edged with a golden crust of Panko-style crumbs. It is deep fried, so it is hot and crisp on the outside, warm and soft in the middle. It is simply served with a rich smooth red sauce and is very good -- and very filling I might add. I could have made a meal on it, and for only $6, it was a steal.
Our second selection was called Cacio en Padella. Essentially, a house made mozzarella (a little more tang to it than traditional mozzarella) that is lightly sautéed in a hot skillet, so that the outside has an opportunity to nicely brown while the inside melts but doesn't completely liquefy.
While good, this was probably our least favorite thing of the evening. It was nicely enhanced with fire roasted red bell peppers and chopped Kalamata olives. A bite of all three together on a piece of the house made focaccia was a nice flavor combination if only slightly underwhelming. Maybe not quite worth the $8 price tag, but we didn't feel over-charged by any means.
I opted for an entrée that would make any vegetarian swoon. Fedelini all'Angelo was a delightful combination of pasta, grilled eggplant, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, an arrabiata marinara, and a wonderful dollop of goat cheese that stirred in beautifully and gave the dish a smooth, creamy undertone.
Arrabita essentially means "angry style," or in other words spicy. It should have a red pepper back-bite, and the key is that it should be angry ... but not furious, and this was just right. I was happy to pay $15 for it.
My wife succumbed to the waiter's description of the special of the evening. A seafood ravioli dish that was heavenly.
It was a mostly cheese ravioli with a sauce that was loaded with chopped lobster, clams and scallops and topped with four absolutely huge shrimp. Every now and then, you taste a dish that has the perfect combination of ingredients and has just the right quantity of each to reach that perfect blend of what the Japanese call unami. This dish reached that level of savor. At $24, it was a value for the dollar and was worth every penny.
Dessert was a wonderful dish called Crostata. Essentially, it translates to pastry or crust. This was basically a pate brisee, or butter crust, baked to order (or at least finished to order) in a cup shape with a bottom layer of candied walnut crumbs, fresh sautéed apples, and then topped right before service with a caramel gelato. (Did I mention they make the gelato in house? Well ... they make the gelato in house. Exquisite!)
The wine list is charming: broken up into regional sub-groups so you can travel around the country each time you visit. Angelo is a former wine buyer and definitely knows his way around the wine world. He actually holds regular wine dinners on a monthly basis. For more information e-mail him at the restaurant, Angelo@piattotulsa.com.
In addition to a diverse menu that includes everything from the standard items like a Bruschetta sampler plate ($10), Calamari Fritti ($11), Lasagna della Mamma ($14) and Chicken Cacciatore ($16), Chef Greco offers more adventurous selections such as Chicken Rollatini Carini -- a chicken breast stuffed with arborio, fennel sausage, asparagus, several cheeses and a light white sauce scented with fresh parsley($18), or try the Pork Paesana. A large pork chop with cannellini, pancetta, tomatoes and fresh spinach ($19), a fennel salad with arugula, asiago cheese, caramelized walnuts, and a house made lemon vinaigrette ($10), or a dish that takes its name from the chef himself-Risotto alla Greco. Creamy Arborio rice dotted with shrimp, asparagus, oven-dried tomato and fresh grated Parmesan ($19). How good does that sound? There are gnocchi and ravioli dishes and a whole lot more. I could keep going, but check out both the lunch and dinner menus for a more comprehensive list at piattotulsa.com.
Still haven't found your niche? They have a variety of personal pizzas as well, ranging from $8 for a simple cheese and tomato to $12 for pizzas with everything from Prosciutto to fresh mozzarella and Gorgonzola cheeses to pesto, grilled eggplant, and rotisserie chicken, and about a thousand other ingredients.
We were there on a Sunday night at prime time, normally a slow night in the industry, and it was busy and brisk. Lots and lots of families, many with kids, and judging by the children's menu Angelo, Marcia and Giuseppe either have kids or did some good research because not only did the items on it look like they would appeal to the youngsters, but every little one in there was seriously chowin' down.
The atmosphere is casually elegant and comfortable with a nice mix of booths and tables all covered in real linens, a few small side areas, and a good view of the pick-up slide from wherever you are sitting, which is always fun. Our waiter was attentive, thorough and observant without being oppressive, and several times we could hear he and the chef and others chattering in Italian. Just added to the authentic feel of the place. Carter, the manager was running the floor well and hit every table several times to make sure all was well.
According to Marcia Harris, the company ethos can be summed up this way: "A taste of Italy is what we want to bring to the guest. We also hope they become a little more adventurous in their selection of food and wine with each visit. We pride ourselves on following our motto, which is to use the best possible ingredients and do with them as little as possible."
I think they succeeded -- with style.
Piatto Cucina Italiana
7153 S. Olympia Ave. West
HOURS: Sunday 11am-9pm; Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday 11am-11pm
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