Mondo’s Ristorante’ Italiano is Back in Tulsa on Brookside

By on March 22, 2012

Everybody loves Mondo’s. That genial Italian trattoria was a south Tulsa mainstay for almost thirty years until its closing in 1997. Half of Tulsa, it seems, has treasured childhood memories of family meals eaten there. And so, when the Tulsa World announced that Mondo’s was reopening on Brookside, the ecstatic comments on the Internet suggested that the writers were going about with big dopey grins. It was a rare and glorious triumph over time, a Proustian ticket to revisit the past, a chance to relive times thought lost forever.

For me it was bittersweet. It sounded the death knell for one of my favorite restaurants, Gemma’s, and put one of Tulsa’s finest chefs, Ian van Anglen, out of a job. So, though I came out liking Mondo’s a lot, I walked in a skeptic.

Memories of Gemma’s everywhere, and yet the place had changed. It was the photos, hundreds of them, sepia-toned and exotic. Being a skeptic, I assumed the photos had been salvaged from some second-hand shop. But they weren’t. Every one of the pictures shows the large and flamboyant Aloisio family. And there’s always one of the family there to greet you. Usually it’s Rob Aloisio, who must have been a baby when Mondo’s first opened. Sometimes it’s Louis, his father, who founded the place in 1969. I think it’s the commitment by the owners that makes this place special, a real-life version of the “when you’re here you’re family” that big impersonal chains promise. It reminded me a lot of the little family restaurants you might find tucked away on a side street somewhere way out in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

The food reminds me of those restaurants too. All the entrees are made from Aloisio family recipes, handed down from generation to generation. Recipes change over the years. About 100 years ago, I believe, the Aloisios came to America from Abruzzi. But the food served in Mondo’s today is not quite like what you’d find if you visited that region of west-central Italy. It’s more like what you’d find in one of those family places in the New York outer boroughs. Red sauce, long-simmered and lovingly prepared. Like this.

Manicotti ($12). Big pasta crepes stuffed with a rich ricotta filling. I’m sure the ricotta was made in house, for I’ve never tasted ricotta that good anywhere near Tulsa. The vibrant, flavorful sauce was a delight. Cathe ordered that. I wish I had. Although I made a good choice too. I got one of the most popular dishes from the old Mondo’s.

Clams and linguini ($12). That’s a mainstay of Brooklyn restaurants but I’d never seen it prepared this way before. Big chunks of clam in a rich creamy sauce. It was a meaty flavorful dish and I liked it. Betty got this.

Spaghetti with meatball, sausage and chicken. I didn’t get to taste it but the sauce looked wonderful and the portion was enough to feed a family. A big family.

The menu also offers hero sandwiches (around $10) and pizzas from Gemma’s old wood-burning oven (12 inch pizzas from $11 to $16). There are several more pasta entrees too, such as spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, fettucini Alfredo and lasagna (from $10 to $12), as well as chicken or veal marsala or piccata (chicken $15, veal $18).

All in all, you get well-prepared food, huge portions at reasonable prices, and a festive family welcome.

Mondo’s Ristorante Italiano
3410 S Peoria
561-6300
http://www.facebook.com/Mondos-Ristorante-Italiano-on-Brookside
open daily for lunch and dinner

Brian Schwartz: Author

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society.  www.theomegasociety.com

I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

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