Stylish Eats reviews are brought to you by Steven Giles Clothing, the menswear store for those with discerning taste. Style extends well beyond the confines of clothing, so Steven Giles is teaming up with I Ate Oklahoma to bring you reviews of eateries with a refined palate across the state.
Soft openings are difficult to judge. For one thing, there’s a lot of free food being thrown at you and, for another, there’s a thrill from tasting dishes you’ve been reading about for the week or more prior to opening. It’s also a packed house, a new front-of-house team, chefs learning a menu together...a lot is going on.
That’s one reason I try to make it very clear that my First Looks features are not reviews. It wouldn’t be fair to review a restaurant on their first night of business and it’s not fair to you, the reader, to get a review based on such a hectic meal.
So we wait. And we wait. And we wait. And then we think about doing a review and we wait a little longer. But I’ll admit, I gave Osteria a lot of breathing room. A LOT. And not because I wasn’t impressed with the opening, but because there were so many other First Looks I had to do between now and then and plenty of other restaurants that have been around for a minute that deserved the attention.
Still, I was very happy to walk through the door at Osteria again recently. It seemed smaller to me. More intimate, even with fewer people packed inside. And I could breathe, taking my time looking over a menu full of hard choices for what I knew was going to be a great meal.
For a man who doesn’t drink, co-owner Jonathon Stranger sure has a lot of great cocktail restaurants...and a distillery. (It’s not exactly a coincidence that lots of specialty cocktails are made with Prairie Wolf products.) I’m not a big drinker, either (it’s why I’ve got Tracy Hamlin and John Barleycorn on the cocktail and craft beer beats, respectively), so while I got a Luxardo cherry limeade, I can’t give you the full rundown of the cocktail menu because I really only had the one. It was pretty good.
If you can go early-ish, you’ll enjoy a ton of natural light coming in through the windows. Later, the lights come up a little, but it stays pretty dim/dark/romantic. Great for dates with unattractive people (hi!) or just anyone you like. That sounded negative, but it was just for a self-own. I think it’s a neat place, honestly.
One more thing before we get to the food and it’s also the thing you should do before you get to the food: Talk to your server. Osteria’s menu is not long, but it is involved. There are going to be some pasta names you’ve never heard before and a few ingredients with which you are unfamiliar. Your server can help.
Ours was amazing. He had recommendations for every course and even recommendations based on other contingencies. You’re going to have something heavy? Maybe go with a lighter appetizer. You’re getting a salad as a main? There are some more satisfying options to round out the meal. Use this resource. It will make your meal better so much better.
Bring an extra mouth and your go-to-eatin’ stomach, because Osteria doesn’t mess around. There’s a lot of food and it’s all delicious. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to check your bank balance before you go, too, because you’re going to want to spend all the money.
I’d previously tried (and loved) the Coccoli platter ($19), which is like a charcuterie plate on a very specific type of Italian acid. Diners get these puffed up slightly sweet balls of fried dough, thin slices of Prosciutto, Stracchino cheese, and a truffle-infused honey. You can eat bits and pieces separately or stack them all together. It’s like a food puzzle, but every combination is delicious.
The smoked mozzarella in carrozza ($16) are like extra fancy (and extra tasty) fried mozzarella sticks from TGIFridays. And let’s not act like you don’t love the cheap kind, so you know you ought to give these a try.
But we wanted a few new appetizers for your drooling pleasure, so we got burrata crostino ($16), which I’d liken to one giant bruschetta. There’s this long plank of tender bread with a nice crust on it, covered in smeared burrata (that’s the trendy cheese your granddaughter keeps posting pictures of on Instagram), topped with garlic, roasted tomatoes, pickled onions, arugula, shredded basil, and a subdued drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
I know a lot of people are watching their carb intake. Well, you can definitely watch me intake these carbs any time. This was just a really lovely way to start a meal, a nice primer on the flavors that are woven into Osteria’s menu, and a great shareable app. It’s not as hearty as some of the other apps, like the giant Wagyu meatball, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Another light starter that deserves your attention is tuna carpaccio ($17). Much as I love the beef version of this dish, the tuna really plays well with the other ingredients the chefs have chosen. Yellowfin tuna is light and fresh, especially when paired with strong flavors like capers and pickled onions. Drizzle on some charred lemon vinaigrette and wrap it up in a thinly sliced piece of radish for a Mediterranean tuna taco, just the way mama never even imagined making.
I am a CPB (Certified Pasta Boy) with years of experience, so I take great joy in seeing how so many local restaurants are expanding into new types of noodles. (Previous Stylish Eats all-star Rococo and the newly opened Piatto are other great examples, but you’ll see it happening everywhere now.)
Why so many pasta shapes? Because different shapes interact better with different sauces! (A lesson I learned from EPB—that’s Expert Pasta Boy—Chris Becker from Della Terra Pasta.) So the squid ink garganelli ($25) isn’t just there for looks, it’s got function, as well. These tight spirals, much more compact than rotini, are wonderful for trapping the white wine and sea urchin cream sauce, which has a fresh and briny counterbalance. Slurp it up with tasty little clams and roasted cherry tomatoes for a truly unbelievable taste.
And, as I said, listen to your server. Ours pointed us to a fun menu hack: adding braised octopus to the garganelli. Goodness me, this was a revelation. The octopus brings another meaty layer to the dish, adding heft and a satisfying chew with the tender pieces of tentacled legs interspersed throughout.
Maybe that all sounds a little busy for your palate. If you’re looking for simplicity without sacrificing flavor, spaghetti cacio e pepe ($17) is as straightforward and satisfying as most meals get. The spaghetti is cooked to a perfect al dente, the sauce is simply cheese, butter, pepper, and reduced pasta water, and the entire experience is deeply gratifying. It’s the pinnacle, in my mind, of Italian comfort food.
Despite my long history as a CPB, I’m also an RSN—Registered Steak Nerd—and I know chef Stranger’s relationship with Ironhorse Ranch in Macomb, Oklahoma is yielding some of the best meat in the state for metro diners.
Ironhorn Ranch Wagyu flank steak ($32) is a value cut, but it’s prepared with the care and attention to detail they’d give the finest filet. The outside has a nice char, but not too aggressive, and the inside was served a perfect medium-rare. The steak comes with roasted cipollini onions, which add an earthy sweetness, and Parmesan fingerling potatoes.
One thing I will recommend is that you ask for the salsa verde on the side. It’s not a Tex-Mex salsa, in case you were wondering. It’s a sauce, almost like a chimichurri, with a lot of vibrant green herbs, which is great. But there’s another ingredient that can be rather divisive—anchovies. They add a huge burst of umami, but there’s also a fishiness to their flavor (which makes sense because, you know, they’re fish) that not everyone enjoys. Get it on the side, give it a taste, and judge for yourself.
If you have room for dessert, well, someone call the Vatican, because we’ve got a miracle on our hands. That said, I used the power of gluttony to break through my own limits to enjoy lemon budino ($9), which is a very thick and rich lemon pudding, topped with balsamic vinegar-infused macerated berries and a white chocolate crisp.
Some desserts are just a punch of sweetness right in your punim, but this budino is a rollercoaster. Sweet and tart in equal measures, neither gaining an advantage, with the push and pull of rich white chocolate and the subtle sourness of fresh berries and balsamic vinegar. Each bite is different, which means you’ll never get bored, even as your scraping the last vestiges from the jar.
Whether you’re grabbing dinner for one at the bar, enjoying date night with your favorite, or celebrating with a large group, Osteria is set up to accommodate you with aplomb. The First Looks we did last year was right: Osteria is a winner and it’s time for you to give it a second, or third look, as well.
Stylish Eats are sponsored by Steven Giles Clothing, a high-end men’s fashion store in Classen Curve providing expertly tailored suits, timeless casual wear and everything in between. Visit them online at stevengilesclothing.com to schedule a fitting or stop in at 5850 N. Classen Blvd. to browse their selection in person.