1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Saturday
TapWerks Ale House & Cafe
121 E. Sheridan
Victoria’s Pasta Shop
327 White, Norman
What worked: small menu that’s been perfected over years
What needs work: Toss some chopped fresh parsley on top of all that cheese.
Tip: Cheese on pasta is good.
Victoria’s Pasta Shop must be doing something right. Next year marks a quarter century of operation in Norman.
Not much has changed in that time. Its menu is essentially as it was a decade ago. The operators have managed to maintain a continuous level of goodness for a long while.
Unlike some places that have dozens of choices and don’t prepare any of them extraordinarily, here, the selections are few, but all are masterful. Find a dish you like and count on it being pretty much the same every time you go back.
Prices have only edged up slightly since opening. The same lady uses her antique pasta machine to source its fresh noodles. It’s the kind of place people return to once they’ve moved away from college.
“We see some of the same people year in and year out who come in only on football game days,” said manager Griffin Miller, who started out as a server and has been working there for a decade.
What may surprise you about Victoria’s — even though many people proclaim it’s their favorite Italian joint — is it isn’t solely an Italian restaurant.
Yes, the entree names are linguine, lasagna and fettuccine, but it’s essentially an American eatery with nods in the general direction of Roma. The chefs aren’t shy about taking creative chances like using green chilis or Sriracha sauce in daily specials.
Not only are there no meatballs; beef and pork are entirely absent from the kitchen’s repertoire. Chicken, snow crab and shrimp show up occasionally, but no other food with a face will be found on the menu.
This goes along with Victoria’s vaguely old-hippie vibe. It leans more to California veggie bar than Old World bistro. The dining room walls are covered with local art that ranges from competent to ghastly. It’s a good place to take out-of-town guests to give them a flavor of Norman’s bohemian Campus Corner.
Victoria's secret is to serve freshly made pastas swimming in melted cheese, butter, cream or olive oil. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes all four fats are used together, making the dish irresistibly luscious. Pesto, fresh lemon and garlic are used sparingly. It’s the cheese, baby.
Its signature dish, lasagna rolls ($9.99), is called The Victoria’s Classic. Shrimp, spinach and cheese are rolled up in pasta strips, baked and served with marinara and Alfredo sauces. Some regular patrons have never tried anything else.If you really must avoid a caloric orgy, there’s always the build-your-own-pasta option. That way you could create a boring, holier-than-thou combination such as whole wheat linguine topped with broccoli and carrots ($7.99).
A much tastier choice, however, is black pepper linguine ($9.99), which tosses snow crab and spinach in a lemon-garlic butter sauce. The creamy, steaming mess is so rich it’s a challenge to destroy the entire plate.
Entrees only come with a hunk of garlic bread, but salads may be ordered separately.
It’s one of the few establishments where meals are around 10 bucks with a bottle of decent wine under $25. It also has Boulevard Wheat and Samuel Adams Boston Lager on tap ($4.49).
Victoria’s desserts vary from day to day but aren’t listed on the menu. Ask your server or check the specials board by the counter about a sweet send-off.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.