May 11th, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (10)
I’m always a sucker for a place named Napoli’s. I spent quite a few happy summers in Naples (which Italians call Napoli) when I was barely old enough to join the Boy Scouts, so just the name (Na-po-li: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate, as Nabokov might have said) brings a wave of bright blue sunshiny memories. In Tulsa, thanks to the efforts of a big extended family of hard-working immigrants from Albania (which, back when I summered in Naples, was a remote, closed-off land whose only allies were Red China and North Korea), the name Napoli’s means good food, low prices, and a warm welcome. You can find Napoli’s restaurants in Sand Springs, Owasso, Durant and even farther afield at places like Lebanon, Missouri and Wichita Falls, Texas. They’re not a chain but all the owners are related.
At the brand-new Woodland Hills Napoli’s at the corner of 61st and Memorial, the welcome is especially warm. Walk in and the owner runs over to greet you. He takes you to a table (“any table you like”) and hovers expectantly, as if to say, please give me an especially difficult task so I can do it and prove how happy I am that you stopped by! The waiter was just as accommodating, which was just as well because after he arrived with a plate of delicious fresh-baked rolls (warning: it’s easy to eat so many of these rolls that you have no room for your dinner) I DID have a task for him. But first let me back up and show you the dining room.
I’d been to the Sand Springs Napoli’s last year, and reviewed it here. (“That’s my nephew,” said the owner, “he runs the Sand Springs place.”) There the interior, which used to be a trolley station eighty years ago, looks like something you’d find on a side street in New York’s Little Italy. Well here it doesn’t, but the food and service are both fine, and that’s what counts. Getting back to the waiter, I’d always wanted to try Veal Damabianka. They have it in Sand Springs and the menu description (“sauteed with mushrooms in rich brandy cream sauce”) sounds enticing. Sadly, they don’t have it here. But the waiter ran and checked with the chef and said they would prepare it just for me. And they did.
If you go to Napoli’s it’s worth asking if they can do the same for you. It’s a lovely dish and it tastes as good as it looks. The rich creamy sauce is a lot like the sauce Veal Marsala. Two big pieces of veal. A great deal for $13.
Lots of other stuff on the menu. All the pasta you’d expect — lasagna, ravioli, baked ziti, spaghetti with meatballs, and lots more — for around $9. (It’s $7 at lunchtime.) Lots of chicken dishes — Piccata, Cacciatore, Parmigiana — some unusual ones too, like Chicken Carchovi with sauteed artichoke hearts in a creamy wine sauce ($11) and Chicken Albanese with tomatoes, onions, basil and wine in an Alfredo sauce ($11). (Many of these are $9 at lunch.) Veal and seafood too.
The rest of us opted for chicken. Here’s their version of Chicken Scarpariello ($11).
Most East Coast versions of this dish (it’s unknown in Italy) feature sausages and a clear long-simmered sauce. Here there are no sausages (but there are peppers and mushrooms), a creamy sauce, and melted cheese baked on top. It’s different, but it’s very good. And so was the Chicken Florentino ($11).
That does have a clear broth, a bit like chicken soup (a very good chicken soup) and it’s a good choice too.
In sum, I liked Napoli’s. It doesn’t rival Mondo’s on Brookside, but if you’re near Woodland Hills Mall and want a cheap, friendly place that’s not run from a corporate office in Chicago or Dallas, it’s definitely worth a try.
Napoli’s Italian Restaurant
8228 E 61 St
Open every day from 11 AM to 9 PM
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.