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
Sandro’s Pizza and Pasta
914 W. Main, Norman
What worked: excellent pizza and good signature entrees
What needs work: A crisp, ultra-thin pizza crust would be a welcome additional choice.
Tip: Pleasant but not fancy dining room serving a level of Italian cuisine found in much more expensive restaurants.
Sandro Osmani, the owner of Sandro’s Pizza and Pasta, is keeping alive his family tradition.
“My grandfather, Giovanni Osmani, taught me how to cook when our family still lived in Roma,” he said. “We’ve always been in the restaurant business.”
And business has been good for the first-generation Italian and Albanian-American. So good that Osmani recently expanded the dining room and added a full bar.
A second location at 2024 S. Service in Moore is scheduled to open this month, as well. The menu and kitchen operations will be the same as the Norman restaurant.
“I learned all the recipes from Giovanni, and they are still the same ones we use today,” Osmani said.
He doesn’t scrimp on fresh ingredients, which make his pizza a cut above in both taste and cost. An extra large (18-inch) cheese-only pie is $15.00. The biggest supreme special costs $20.95.
Pizza dough is made in-house daily, and you can watch it being hand-tossed for every order. It’s a traditional, Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza by way of the Big Apple, where the Osmani family originally settled after leaving Italy.
The various pizza and pasta sauces are long-simmered in Sandro’s kitchen. It’s a taste that’s a far cry from the corporate joints.
“My [pizza] quality is so much higher, there’s no real comparison,” Osmani said.
The art of rolls
His pizza backs up the boast. It’s the fundamentals of good crust, homemade sauce and high-quality mozzarella that make it a superlative pie. In addition to all the toppings you’d expect, there are also specialty toppings, including sauteed eggplant, artichoke hearts and meatballs.
A personal favorite is Sandro’s Quattro Gusti pizza topped with Canadian bacon, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and ripe olives. It’s an unusual pizza with robust flavors.
Although pizza is tops and can be ordered by the slice ($2.50-$3.75) or whole pie in several varieties, it would be a mistake to ignore the rest of the offerings.
Sandro’s chicken ($10.95) is sauteed chicken breast in a complex brandy cream sauce. He doesn’t economize by using cooking wine; it’s a decent cognac that you could happily sip neat. Shallots, mushrooms and dill flavor this dreamy dish that’s served with a side of pasta, a garlic roll and a small house salad. It’s a plate that a white tablecloth restaurant would charge twice as much for without batting an eye.
Watching the rolls bake was like observing the creation of art. Care was taken in the deft manner that comes only with experience. The ovens are right by the counter, for optimal viewing. Pans of rolls are rotated and checked for just the right golden-brown color before being painted with garlic butter and delivered with meals. It’s a big roll and may be ordered for a buck each à la carte.
Vegetarians will find plenty to dig at Sandro’s. The veggie calzone ($5.95) is an immense bread pocket stuffed with mushrooms, ricotta, olives, spinach and mozzarella. All the pasta dishes, such as baked ziti and manicotti al forno ($7.95), have versions without meat. If you want just a plate of spaghetti with olive oil and red peppers, Osmani will make it for you.Half a dozen salads range from antipasto ($6.95) and Caesar ($4.00) to a simple house ($2.00) bowl with sport peppers, tomato and iceberg lettuce.
No dithering over choice of desserts; there is only one. Sicilian cannoli ($3.00) is a little pastry tube filled with sweet ricotta, flavored by just a hint of anise.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.