Principles of pasta 

Credit: Shannon Cornman

The market for Italian food is confusing.

Much to my chagrin, there are plenty in our fair city who think that the height of Italian cuisine can be found at Olive Garden. (Their breadsticks are good.) And there are plenty of other mass-market spaghetti slingers, too. Carino’s and Fazoli’s, not traditional Italian, have found a need and filled it.

Whither, then, the independent Italian restaurant? Whither Meiki’s Italian-American?

After decades of feeding hungry tourists on Route 66, Meiki’s, a classic spaghetti joint if there ever was one, has moved to a strip mall in northwest Oklahoma City. It’s still serving up the same tasty pasta dishes as before, but to a new crop of customers.

Where does Meiki’s fit in the hierarchy of quality? The menu is small, but that focus results in some real winners.

First among them is the angel hair pasta with pesto ($11.25). I usually think of pesto as a very assertive sauce; Meiki’s version is a little milder with a lot more olive oil. Still, the basil flavor permeates the thin, tender noodles. If you order this, and I recommend you do, be sure to toss the pasta every few bites to redistribute the sauce. Gravity has a tendency to draw the flavor toward the bottom of the bowl.

If you’re looking for something with that classic red sauce taste, I like the spaghetti with meat sauce ($11.25). You can get it with plain marinara or with meatballs, but the consistency and flavors really come through with the meat sauce. The meatballs — while tender — were not worth the extra money.

Do you like cheese? Of course you do. Even lactose-intolerant people like cheese, but it’s forbidden. If you want to take your cheesy desires to the next level, might I recommend the manicotti ($11.25)?

manicotti takes tender crepes filled with ricotta and coats them in an
oregano-heavy marinara with tons of shredded mozzarella. Then the whole
delicious pile is shoved into the oven. What you get is a mix of the
creamy, stringy cheeses and the tangy sauce. It’s a real delight.

come with salads and garlic bread. I like to spend the extra 50 cents
and upgrade to a Caesar salad, mostly because I’m not wild about iceberg
lettuce. The garlic bread … eh. Use it to mop up your extra sauce, but
don’t expect a ton of flavor.

is a chicken breast sandwich on the menu, because there has to be one,
as mandated by the Poultry Expansion Act of 1954. But for more flavor, I
would steer you toward Meiki’s chicken pocket ($7.99). Here the chicken
has been marinated, seared and chopped into big chunks, mixed with
onions and mushrooms and cheese, all piled into bread made from pizza
dough. Maybe it’s not as appealing to the anti-taste crowd, but I
enjoyed it.

I’m saving
the best for last — because that’s a famous saying, and I like to abide
by them. It’s the calzone ($12.25 for a whole/$6.99 for a half). It’s
big and full of supreme pizza toppings, and you dip it in marinara. I
want to eat one right now! It’s that good. They’re big, they’re tasty
and I recommend you try one.

isn’t the cheapest eats on the block, but if inexpensive is your only
goal, stay home and boil your own pasta. What they provide is a
laid-back atmosphere and plenty of old-school Italian favorites.

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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