Drawing on skills he refined at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Benvenuti's Ristorante's executive chef, Anthony Compagni, deftly incorporates contemporary touches into the menu's traditional, Old-World recipes. Hints of saffron lend a twist to the lobster ravioli, and herb-crusted lamb chops appear alongside sautéed watercress and greek yogurt. Although he imports handmade pastas from Abruzzo, Italy, Compagni also makes mozzarella in-house and sources local, organically grown produce whenever possible.
Wooden cube shelves dominate the dining room's brick walls and display a selection of wines from the restaurant's 150-bottle-strong wine list, which includes representative tipples from countries around the world. A rolling, library-style ladder allows servers to effortlessly snag a bottle from the higher shelves without the hassle of welding spare corkscrews into a jetpack.
Othello's has been dishing out authentic Italian eats in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere since 1973. A salivary-gland punching perusal of the menu reveals fried calamari sprinkled liberally with parmesan cheese and served with a sidecar of cocktail sauce ($7.99), along with a fresh caprese salad ($8.99) to spike the net of your flavor sensors. Savor a center-cut fillet grilled to grilly perfection ($20.99), or the chicken marsala served with a side of spaghetti ($13.99). Fettuccini alfredo ($8.99) and portobello parmigiana ($9.99) round out a list of classic selections, much like a viewing of The Terminator at a bildungsroman marathon. Pizza pies are available with scrumptious toppers such as olives, artichokes, garlic, and fresh basil (starting at $10.99 and ranging up to $14.99 for a 16" with unlimited toppings). Friendly, even-handed staff members dole out sage advice to patrons deliberating over which dessert, wine, or martini best complements their meal or complexion.
Fontana Italian Restaurant's family of epicures transforms fresh pastas, meats, and seafood into plate-bound celebrations of flavor and texture. The chefs forge baked pastas–such as manicotti and eggplant roletini–with smooth ricotta cheese, and coat chicken and veal in crunchy breading and gooey mozzarella. Topped with pepperoni, sausage, and onions, specialty pizzas come in three different sizes, much like bullfrogs' yearbook photos.
Deli-meat missionary Danny Falcone emigrated from New York's Little Italy to bring a menu of Falcone-family favorites to Oklahoma City. A hot sandwich, such as the meatball parmigiana ($7.95), makes an Italian classic accessible in the forkless wasteland of lunch. A slice of fried pizza ($3) satisfies triangular cravings, and an entire square Sicilian pie corners growling stomachs ($16.99). Try a Manhattan Special soda, which washes down deli delights in a sugary sarsaparilla bath or tickles sugar tusks with vanilla bean-y bubbles. For those who prefer to eat at home, where there’s a comfortable armchair and no unfamiliar ghosts, by-the-pound deli items offer up olives stuffed with prosciutto, garlic, jalapeño, and cheese as well as imported Italian artichokes.
At Napoli's, reverent chefs recreate the tastes of their Old World ancestors in the form of scratch-made pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. Build-your-own pies arrive sprinkled with 100% real provolone and toppings ranging from pepperoni, ham, and bacon to onions, black olives, and green peppers. Doused in house-made sauces, Napoli's pastas include Italian mainstays such as spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, and five-cheese lasagna. Their sandwich menu continues the old country love fest, filling plates with Mediterranean specialties including chicken cacciatore subs, meatball heroes, and paninis cut into the shape of Silvio Berlusconi.
To reach their table at Spaghetti Warehouse, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into signature plates of 15-Layer Lasagna or hand-rolled meatballs. Apart from the items they've amassed, each of the buildings also has a particular history, from the one-time ice-manufacturing plant in Columbus to Memphis's Civil War munitions depot. Given their storied pasts, it's no surprise that several of these venues house their own ghosts—at Houston's warehouse, for example, elevator lights have been known to flicker, objects are mysteriously found in new locations, and a lady in a white gown is said to roam the restaurant.
Yet the main attraction of the place is the delicious food. Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes are created from family recipes passed down for generations via email. Guests devour the perfectly al dente pasta, crispy calamari, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes while dining with family and friends. It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine.
Aromatic plumes of smoke rise from The Wedge Pizzeria’s brick ovens, which imbue the crispy, browned crusts of the restaurant's seven signature pizzas with delicate notes of flamed pecan wood. Chefs dapple their saucy canvases with colorful strokes of truffle oil, roasted fennel, capicola, and figs that coalesce to form gourmet masterpieces. Tender pears arrive at tables in sealed envelopes of prosciutto alongside inventive salads tossed with beets, shallots, and oranges. Sunday brunch revives sleepy palates with bottomless mimosas and pizza slices loaded with local eggs and served atop ringing alarm clocks. Bocce balls clack in The Wedge's backyard during warmer months as fans root for their favorite players from the comfort of a spacious patio.