What a wealth of choices! We remember the days when the only places to eat after 10 p.m. were Denny’s and Waffle House. Next time you’re out late with friends, check out OKC’s abundance of local late-night eatery options.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Gazette staff
We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
4621 N. May
What works: Excellent marinara sauce and buttery pizza crust.
What needs work: The chicken Parmesan sandwich is lacking.
Tips: Prices vary between locations. Both serve inexpensive, quality food.
I like a nice plate of pasta.
Well, if I’m being honest, I love a giant bowl of pasta covered in rich, creamy sauce, topped off with meatballs or seared shrimp, or just a mountain of Parmesan cheese. Daddy needs his carbs.
Which is why your mother and I want to talk to you about Italia Express. (That’s right: For the purposes of this review, I’m your new dad. Now go clean your room.)
Son/daughter, Italia Express is a restaurant that serves Italian cuisine. Why did it leave the “n” off their name? No one knows. And no one cares, because it serves ridiculously inexpensive food that tastes like it should cost a good deal more.
The Gamberi Marinara ($9.99 lunch, $10.99 dinner) is a good example. A heaping pile of linguine tossed with a bold, flavorful marinara. Lots of basil. Lots of garlic. And on top: six large, perfectly cooked shrimp. This dish was satisfying in so many ways, not the least of which was it being enough food to make another meal the next day.
Newly added, maybe even seasonal, is the chicken basilico ($7.99). Thin, whole-wheat pasta noodles are tossed with white wine, mushrooms and pan-seared chicken breast. While not nearly so striking as the marinara, this was full of an earthy flavor I really enjoyed. The chicken could have used a bit more seasoning for my tastes, but I’d still get this again.
The ziti ($6.99 lunch, $8.99 dinner) is an honorable mention. The pasta was fine and the creamy tomato sauce rich and creamy, but it lacked the Italian flavor for which I hoped. Plus, the cheese on top formed an impenetrable shield. Not a bad dish, really, but it pales in comparison to others on the menu.
You certainly wouldn’t want the ziti after eating the tomato and spinach calzone ($5.99), which is packed to the gills with veggies and giant dollops of ricotta cheese. The crust is superior — buttery, crisp — although I wish it all had been mixed together a little more. There were a few ricotta-only bites, which isn’t so bad now that I think of it.
And have you ever heard of this “pizza” stuff? Because Italia Express has it, and it’s quite good. The extreme pepperoni has, as you might expect, a lot of pepperoni on it. The chicken prosciutto Alfredo pizza is absolutely decadent and extremely rich. And the veggie pizza is covered in vegetables. What unites them all? A delicate, buttery crust that’s made in-house daily. (Prices and sizes available vary between locations.)
There are hard lessons your mother and I won’t always be here to teach you. And one of them is that the chicken Parmesan sandwich ($5.99) is a bit of a letdown. The crispy chicken and warm red sauce don’t quite translate from inside the hoagie bun. You’re much better off getting a plate of spaghetti with marinara ($6.99 at lunch) and some cheese bread to collect any leftover sauce.
Italia Express does a lot of things well and all for very reasonable rates. I don’t quite understand why there are different prices and websites for two locations in the same city, but I also don’t care that much. So long as I can keep getting big bowls of delicious pasta, I think this family will be just fine.
Now, go do your homework!
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.