FOOD: Italiano's Pizza & Pasta

 

Written by Laura Beam in the March 2013 Issue

Italiano'sAmericans’ love affair with Italian food has earned it the status of a stateside staple. Perhaps the rich family traditions, time-honored recipes and detailed preparation of this storied cuisine speak as much to the soul as to the palate, in any culture or corner of the world.

Once considered an ethnic food, Italian fare has so pervaded the American dining experience that pizza and spaghetti seem no less indigenous than apple pie or fried chicken.

Today’s stylish pastas and custom pizzas set a fashionable lunch scene. By evening, family dinner tables brim with hearty rounds of spaghetti and lasagna in a quest for the ultimate comfort food. And by night, the saucy elegance of artistic Alfredo and marinara dishes conjure up romance in its tastiest form. Is it any wonder we’ve embraced this versatile food with such amore?

Given the widely varied interpretations of Italian cuisine, discovering those with authentic nuances steeped in family tradition holds new allure. Joel Brentlinger, owner and chef of Italiano’s Pizza & Pasta, grew up immersed in such tradition. With his Great Grandmother hailing from Calabria, a region in southern Italy, Brentlinger’s cooking naturally reflects the more southern-style customs. A mainstay of that culinary heritage is found in Italiano’s custom sauces, “just the way Grandma and Great Grandma used to make them,” Brentlinger recalls in tribute to his maternal masters.

Whatever Grandma and Great Grandma did, they certainly did it right. Most of the recipes at Italiano’s have been passed down at least four generations, if not five. Inspired to share the family’s culinary heirlooms, Brentlinger is the first of his lineage to cook professionally. “Through my degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from OSU, I learned the restaurant business and the basics of cooking,” he notes. “I strive for excellence in all my food. That is why I make much of it myself and oversee carefully the rest.”

With family from Brooklyn and Long Island and a mother born in Manhattan, Brentlinger’s New York influences spark menu magic as well. The superb New York style, hand-tossed pizzas start with fresh, handmade dough, lightly browned into a chewy crust that lets you linger over each delectable bite. Smoky pepperonis the size of your palm and flavorful, 100% Mozzarella cheese are among 15 toppings for the choosing.

Another menu highlight is the Chicken Parmigiana. A breaded chicken breast, pan-fried in healthy olive oil, is smothered in Chicken Delight Sauce—a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce cooked with bone-in chicken for a hearty punch of flavor—and topped with melted Mozzarella cheese.

Brentlinger continually creates new ‘Off Menu’ specials and offers non-traditional foods like Mexican and steaks as well. “We have very good steaks—not something Italian food is known for,” he reveals. “I use Italian herbs and spices to marinate our steaks two to three days before we use them. We currently serve two sizes of rib eye and a 10 oz. New York strip.”

Whatever you do, don’t leave Italiano’s without a slab of Grandmother Jean’s New York Cheesecake. The buttery graham crust and dense, creamy, sweet cake “take you back to the streets of Brooklyn,” as one discerning native Brooklyn diner notes.

Located at 6833 N. Broadway, at Waterloo, Italiano’s is open Monday–Thursday 4–9pm and Friday & Saturday 11am–9pm. Call 216-5660 for to-go orders and catering or visit italianosokc.com.

1 Comment

creations edge Says:
May 6th, 2013 at 4:35 pm
Italiano's has been a favorite of mine for the past year. Till the recent change in management. the staff doesn't seem to have the same spark as it did before Christmas. Brentlinger is an awesome person with wonderful food. It is just weird to go in expecting Italian food and thrown so many other choices. It gets confusing! It's all so wonderful it's hard to decide!
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