Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
Winning big can be hungry, thirsty work. We scoured Oklahoma’s casinos for your best bets on sustenance whether you are on a winning streak, holding, folding, walking away, running, or just down to your last five bucks.
Gabriella's Italian Grill & Pizzeria
1226 N.E. 63rd
What works: big portions of classic Italian fare for reasonable prices
What needs work: The hostesses could be a little nicer.
Tips: Urbanspoon says it's open for lunch. Only if you eat lunch at 3 p.m.
Hey, man. You like Italian food?
Yeah, I’ll bet you do. Everybody does.
You like big portions? You like tasty sauces? Did you like the old County Line building, with the stables and the high ceilings?
Then let me introduce you to Gabriella’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria.
Gabriella’s is Italy by way of Texas, which means big flavors and plates overflowing with food. Even the appetizers are big. Like the zuppli ($9), two big Parmesan risotto balls stuffed with Italian sausage and mozzarella and then fried. Think of a small apple, but instead of fruit, it’s creamy rice, cheese and meat.
God, why can’t all apples be zuppli?
First thing I do when I find a wish-granting genie. (I will rub every lamp in this city until I find one!) For something a little lighter, the bruschetta ($9) is grilled bread topped with basil, tomato, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. It’s fresh and crisp and good.
My wife got the Italian chicken gnocchi ($5 for a cup, $11 for a bowl, $12 for a bread bowl) and it’s her new go-to when she’s sick. Better than chicken noodle by a mile, it’s a creamy broth with big chunks of chicken, carrots, onion, garlic and spinach. The gnocchi is tender with a slight chew. It’s a must-try.
But you’re probably thinking about pasta, right? I know I am. Constantly. I’m thinking of talking to a psychiatrist about it.
Hmm? Sorry. I recommend the Coal Miner’s Spaghetti ($16). First of all, the portion is big enough for dinner and lunch (or breakfast) the next day. And you might consider breakfast because it’s a peppery spaghetti tossed with big chunks of bacon, peas and garlic. Oh, and a fried egg on top. It’s basically a deconstructed carbonara.There are plenty of other pasta choices. The pasta pomodoro ($12) is nice and spicy, with tomatoes, basil and garlic tossed with olive oil and linguine. If you want your dinner with a kick, this is definitely the way to go.
Hungry for a classic? The Momma’s Spaghetti with Meatballs ($14) is almost certainly better than your mom made. I mean, I don’t know your mom, but let’s be honest … did she make a slightly sweet marinara herself? Did she make her own meatballs? Exactly.
(Don’t worry, however. Second wish is definitely that everybody’s mom makes amazing homemade marinara and meatballs. I could use your help finding more lamps to rub, if you want to pitch in.)
Hey, how about the five-layer lasagna ($16)? Gabriella’s rolls its own pasta sheets for this and stuffs it full of sweet Italian sausage. It’s finished in the big brick oven in back, and it’s fabulous.
My wife got the Mac n’ Cheese ($16), which is not necessarily what I think of as Italian food, but it was ridiculously creamy and had pieces of pecan-smoked bacon.
There’s so much more. The menu is a mile long, and honestly, I haven’t had a bad dish yet. Chicken and mushrooms marsala ($18), chicken picatta ($18), and shrimp fra diava ($20) were all great.
How about the pizzas? Check out the Milano Neapolitan ($16) with mushrooms, caramelized onions, Gabriella’s house-made Italian sausage and a lot of white cheeses. It’s so good. It cannot be good for you, I’m certain, but I’m just going to keep ordering it.
My only problem? I really need to find a genie. Because I need to wish for the unlimited bank account it will take to keep eating at Gabriella’s every other day. It’s classic red-sauce Italian. There’s a nice beer and wine list. The service is peppy and enthusiastic.
If you’re wishing for a fun and filling night out, this should be on your list of destinations. Thankfully, somebody else already asked the genie to bring Gabriella’s to OKC.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.