Presto Pranzo! 

Credit: Shannon Cornman

Seriously, is there anything more uncomfortable than feeling like you don’t fit in? If you’re anything like me, you might have a few issues with the way you look, even if others don’t. And sitting in an overly ornate dining room where everything is crisp and just-so can feel stifling.

Who can enjoy soup in an environment like that?

That’s why I love cozy spots like Caffe Pranzo. It’s nice, but not pretentious. Everybody is just there for a good meal.

The starter menu has plenty of appetizing options, including baked green-shell mussels ($7.99) and salmon sliders ($7.99), but the best of the best are the bruschetta ($7.29) and the French onion soup (cup $3.19/bowl $4.19).

Nowhere else in the metro will you find bruschetta this good. Each slice of toasted bread is crisp and chewy with a powerful, delectable pesto on top. Add in plenty of tomatoes and fresh basil, and you’ve got an appetizer that I’d gladly eat as a meal. When I’m hankering for a taste of spring in the depths of winter, Caffe Pranzo’s bruschetta is my first stop.

I love French onion soup, especially when it is done simply. Caffe Pranzo doesn’t go overboard with the cheese. It doesn’t give you a big pile to dig through before you find piping hot soup. It’s all about enjoying the elements in concert, and this is a great example. A little bread, a little broth, a bit of cheese and some melt-in-yourmouth tender onions. Delightful.

If you’re there for lunch and you want something portable, some tasty sandwiches are on the menu. The grilled portobello mushroom ($7.19) is nice and light. Pranzo marinates and grills the mushrooms, then stacks on the lettuce, red onion, tomatoes and provolone. The sandwich is topped with a pesto mayonnaise that I would probably use to replace all other mayo, given the opportunity.

But if you’re not in a hurry, then I urge you to sit, stay ... good boy. One of my favorite dishes is the simplest — linguine with garlic butter ($4.49

lunch/$8.79 dinner). The chefs cook fresh garlic in butter and then toss the whole mess with al dente linguine. A little Parmesan on top, or maybe some fresh black pepper, and you’ve got an outstanding meal.

Still, for some it’s not a meal until there’s meat, which is why there’s lasagna ($11.89). Pranzo’s version combines two meats, with meat sauce and Italian sausage between sheets of pasta, mozzarella and provolone. It’s a classic for a reason.

I was not so taken with the chicken and portobello mushroom risotto ($17.99), but I’m not sure why. I thought the risotto was cooked perfectly — creamy, with a little texture. But the dish just didn’t hit right.

For a crowd pleaser (especially for those of you with kids), the brick oven pizzas hit the spot. I had the sausage and peppers pie ($8.99), but you can also build your own ($7.99 plus toppings).

If you have room for dessert, and that’s kind of a big “if,” Caffe Pranzo has a few options. I’ve tried the tiramisu ($6.39) and found it a sweet and tangy alternative to some other local tiramisus. But if you’re looking for a taste of New York in Oklahoma City, get the cheesecake ($6.99), which comes from the Carnegie Deli, a beloved Manhattan icon, and is big enough to share.

Yes, sometimes it’s nice to have crisp, white tablecloths and a waiter in a tuxedo and a pencil-thin mustache in a grand ballroom of some sort. But nine times out of 10, I’d much rather go someplace that combines attention to detail and a casual, laid-back charm. Caffe Pranzo fits the bill (without giving you a very big bill) every time.

Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.

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