Cantina Bravo–Bethany, OK

Cantina Bravo
7000 N.W. 23rd St.
Bethany, OK
(405) 470-8394
Cantina Bravo

Cantina Bravo


Based on some of the reviews I had seen for this restaurant I had the idea that it might be something very special. It had been called a “New Mexican” restaurant by some (food from New Mexico), but I did not see any indication that this was the case. The food was described in terms that whether or not it was true New Mexico style, it was one of the best Mexican restaurants in Oklahoma City (this is subjective, but I did not think it really fell in this category either).

Focusing on the positive, though, is the fact that there is a large selection of authentic Mexican dishes. At one time this would have been a big deal for Oklahoma City, but thankfully there are now a number of restaurants which serve this style of food.

My initial visit was on a Friday night, and I think this is not the time when you get the best service. They have a bar, and it seemed that several of the employees were spending a great deal of time making margaritas and other drinks (probably at the expense of serving tables). There was a large party in the back with several tables pushed together, and I know this was not a normal circumstance even on the weekend. While the restaurant’s popularity makes a statement about the food, I would say I found quite a few drawbacks in coming here at one of their busiest times.

Setups

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

They start out with the usual chips and salsa. Both were better than at some restaurants, but the salsa was the first indication to me that this was not “New Mexican” food. The salsa had a moderate spice level, and was more characteristic of traditional Mexican flavors than of those from New Mexico (actually I would say it was fairly typical of the salsas in Oklahoma–not truly authentic but fairly good).

I did not have a particular reaction to the chips, either positive or negative.

They also have a spicy salsa available on request. I thought it was too spicy, though, full of seeds, and did not have a particularly good flavor (the regular salsa was actually better).

The waitress said they have queso dip but it costs extra.

Mole Poblano

Mole Poblano

Mole Poblano

It was a real treat to have Mole Poblano available on the menu, and naturally I had to take advantage of it. The flavor was a little bland, but it was still a treat to be able to order the dark mole (poblano style). The chicken was a little different than what I think is traditional–they served a whole chicken breast instead of the shredded chicken which I think goes best with the mole.

I was not terribly impressed with the flour tortillas served with the dinner, although I was glad that they were included (you can get tortillas with any meal, though, just by asking for them).

The Rice was good, but the Black Beans were just about the highlight of the meal (and were some of the best I have had anywhere).

Taco Salad

Taco salad

Taco salad

I did not try the taco salad, but I do have a photo of it. I was told it was “bland,” mainly because it had a lot of meat but very little lettuce and other vegetables (I can attest to the fact that under the toppings is mostly ground beef).

One of the attractions of Cantina Bravo is that it has four or five salads on the menu, but apparently some are a little lackluster.

Other Observations
The restaurant does not claim to be “New Mexican”–this is only a statement I saw in some reviews. I think this is because some of the enchiladas come with green sauce (although they apparently do not have a red sauce, as a true New Mexican restaurant would offer).

The menu seems to be a mixture of authentic and American style dishes, but the “gringo” dishes still keep a lot of the Mexican flavors rather than being traditional Tex-Mex food. They did not have horchata, but otherwise the menu was pretty much what I expected.

The staff was clearly struggling to keep up with the crowd that was there the night I went. The kitchen came through, and we got the food we ordered, but otherwise I thought this restaurant was even more problematic than the other Mexican places in town which are traditionally busy on weekends.

In the end the mole was a little disappointing, but I applaud the fact that they put it on the menu, and I do not think my like or dislike of this dish has much relevance to the quality of the other dishes served (enchiladas, etc.). Thus I am giving this review with a little bit of a disclaimer that I have not yet tried a good sample of the food.


RATING: 20

Cuisine: Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes, but I only found one marked parking space
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full bar

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 16, 2017

Number of Visits: 1

Best Items: Mole Poblano, Black Beans

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 3

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Mole Poblano
star 5 Black Beans
star 4 Rice
star 3 Chips
star 3 Salsa

Menu (Jun. 2017):

Caffe Pranzo–The Village, OK

Caffe Pranzo (Closed)
9622 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK
Caffe Pranzo

Caffe Pranzo


I have been told by some owners of Italian restaurants that there is no such thing as “Italian food,” but rather that each region in Italy has developed its own cuisine with certain specialties that seem to set it apart from other parts of the country. Perhaps this is why each Italian restaurant in the U.S. seems to have its own special dishes, its own twist on the food it serves, and its own way of preparing sauces and other essential ingredients.

Caffé Pranzo does indeed have certain dishes that stand out, and this is what has made it one of my favorite Italian restaurants. The quality of the food indicates that there are probably several more outstanding dishes that I have yet to discover.

Prices are a little higher than at most restaurants, and it would probably be classified as one of the city’s “special occasion” restaurants (although not to the point that dressing up would be necessary, especially since a sign in the restaurant says that it is a “neighborhood restaurant”). While some Italian restaurants in town seem to cater more toward families with pizza for the bambini and entrées for the adults, Caffé Pranzo is a more quiet and intimate place geared for a leisurely meal.

Salads and Appetizers

Bread

Complimentary bread

It usually takes time for the meal to be prepared, with the employees keeping a watchful eye to ensure that everything is done correctly. The wait is made less burdensome by fresh bread and a tangy and quite unique olive oil mixture for dipping. Customers are not just given a slice or two of bread, but a whole loaf, and it is quite good.

House salad

House salad with raspberry vinaigrette

Several salads can be ordered, but I thought the House Salad that is available with entrées was just about perfect, with fresh salad greens, olives, and a tangy dressing. This is definitely one of the restaurant’s better features. It was even better, though, with the optional raspberry vinaigrette dressing, and in fact I think this is the best raspberry vinaigrette in OKC.

French onion soup

French onion soup

Several other appetizers are available, and the French onion soup is one of the most popular (and I think also quite good).

Pasta Dishes

Linguini with marinara sauce

“Choose Your Own Pasta” with linguini and marinara sauce

The first dish I tried that grabbed my attention was Linguini with Marinara Sauce. This not only had an excellent plum tomato sauce but also a pasta that was flavorful in its own right. The sauce was spicy almost to the point that I wanted to give it a “chile rating” (that I usually use for Mexican food). It was also on the sweet side, but the thing that made it special seemed to be the tomatoes. Other sauces are also available but I seldom try them, I like this one so much.

The Lasagna had a fairly high tomato sauce to pasta ratio, and some flavorful chunks of Italian sausage. As has been the case with several of Caffé Pranzo’s dishes, the pasta seemed to be of better than usual quality.

Pizza

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

I have had mixed results with the brick oven pizzas at Caffé Pranzo. At times I have found the Margherita Pizza to be outstanding, possibly the best in OKC. This was definitely a fresh tasting pizza with the crust tasting just right. On other occasions I ordered the same pizza but found the crust to be droopy, and not crispy enough. The fresh basil has always been one of the best features, but at times there is not enough tomato. Overall, though, this is one of my favorite versions of this type of pizza.

Parmigiana Dishes

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana

The Chicken Parmigiana had a high quality cut of chicken with one of the best breadings anywhere, and was covered with cheese and marinara sauce. Having sampled several versions of this dish at different restaurants, I thought this was one of the better ones. Having stated that this is a restaurant where several items stand out as ones I particularly like, I would have to put the chicken parmigiana at the head of the list.

Eggplant parmigiana

Eggplant parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana is another inconsistent item, but at times it has been excellent. At times I have found the breading, sauce, and cheese to have the same excellent quality that I found with the chicken parmigiana. Other times the breading has been too oily. The eggplant itself has always been good.

Ravioli

Ravioli

Fried ravioli

The Ravioli was a rather unique dish because the shells are specially prepared by a lady in town who supplies them to Caffé Pranzo. This is a rather simple dish with the shells and sauce, but I thought the shells were very good (with cheese inside), and were the main reason to try them here as opposed to other restaurants. It is a simple dish with simple flavors, but the freshness and quality are very good.

Primavera Aglio Olio

Primavera aglio olio

Primavera aglio olio

In an attempt to try something different I ordered the Primavera Aglio Olio (actually this was the first time I had ever tried this dish). The good part of this dish was the vegetables and pasta, but I thought it was very strong on garlic and olive oil (perhaps too much so). This is a vegetarian dish and I would recommend it, but several other meatless dishes seemed to have a better flavor, such as the pizza, linguini, and ravioli.

Chicken Cannelloni

Chicken cannelloni

Chicken cannelloni (split in half)

This photo shows an order of Cannelloni split in half, so the full order is quite a bit more substantial. The wilted spinach salad makes an especially appetizing vegetable. The sauce on the cannelloni is also among the best I have tried.

Manicotti
The main disappointment I have had was with an order of Manicotti, and it also seems to have now been dropped from the menu. My dinner was not hot throughout, leading to the conclusion that it had been frozen or refrigerated, and not heated properly before serving. My dining companion did not want to send it back to the kitchen, and it was not cold to the point that it was inedible, but it was nevertheless strange that it would come out this way.

The manicotti came with a choice of sauces (marinara or alfredo) or a mixture of both. This provided a convenient way to test both sauces. As I suspected, I preferred the marinara sauce, but I did not care for the alfredo sauce as much as I thought I would. Maybe others have more of a taste for it than I do.

Closing Comments
Even Papa Dio’s, which is probably my favorite Italian restaurant in Oklahoma City, has certain dishes that I think are better than others, so it does not surprise me that the same would be the case at Caffé Pranzo. Caffé Pranzo has a surprising consistency in quality, though, compared to many other Italian restaurants. I say this because the few times I have had a bad experience here I did not tell the staff so they could make it right, which I assume they would have done. The fact that the salads, soups, and spaghetti are good here, though, tells me that this is a very good restaurant overall.

Caffe Pranzo's saltshaker collection

Each table has a different set of saltshakers, with others on display in the dining room

There is much on Caffé Pranzo’s menu I have not tried, so I do not think I have reached the point of having a conclusive list of recommended dishes. The ones I have listed as “best items,” though, are among the best in the city (as is the ravioli, even though it is not one of my favorite dishes).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Italian
Cost: $$$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: No (a former handicapped space now has no sign)
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 19, 2017
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Linguini Marinara, Chicken Parmigiana

Special Ratings
star 5 Linguini alla Marinara
star 5 Chicken Parmigiana
star 5 Cannelloni
star 5 Margherita Pizza
star 4 Eggplant Parmigiana
star 4 Lasagna
star 4 Ravioli
star 4 Primavera Aglia Olio
star 3 Manicotti
star 4 Tomato Bisque
star 4 House Salad

 

Tommy’s–Oklahoma City, OK

Tommy’s Italian-American Grill (Closed)
5516 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 470-5577
Tommy's

Tommy’s


Update Apr. 2019: Tommy’s is planning to move to the Waterford Hotel at N.W. 63rd and Pennsylvania Ave. and take over the now closed Bellini’s Restaurant (the owner of Tommy’s was the original owner of Bellini’s, and will reopen under the Bellini’s name).

Writing restaurant reviews has been a good discipline for me, requiring me to analyze different food and to put them on some type of objective rating scale. Of course I know it is an inexact science, but I am very sure about the things I like.

Back in the days when my restaurant visits were for the sole purpose of enjoying the food, one of the places where this was most easily accomplished was at the old Tommy’s in Northpark Mall (at N.W. 122nd and May). The owner of Tommy’s also opened Bellini’s (which is now under different ownership), but the concept of Tommy’s was a little more downscale than Bellini’s. I enjoyed both restaurants, but somehow the food at Tommy’s was more appealing to my tastes, and I particularly thought the the pizza was unmatched in the city for flavor and quality.

The new Tommy’s on Memorial Road (just east of MacArthur) opened in May 2014. The outdoor patio was not yet open at this time, and it did seem as if they had been starting slow, with a “soft opening” taking place in advance of the official one. It is a somewhat casual restaurant where one would feel comfortable dressing up, and the service certainly seems to be on par with the city’s other upscale Italian restaurants. At first I was a little apprehensive that they were trying to be more upscale than the original Tommy’s, but it seems that they have struck the appropriate balance of having good food but not making it so expensive that I have few chances to enjoy it.

Tommy's wood fired oven

Tommy’s wood fired oven

Tommy’s has built a wood fired oven for the pizzas, and the large pizza menu leads me to believe that this is a large part of their business. Even though the pizzas are excellent, they are competitively priced and are a way you can come to the restaurant on a more modest budget.

The restaurant was not trying to sell me drinks, appetizers, or other items which frequently run up the cost of a meal; instead it just seemed that everything was good quality and you could pay a little more if you wanted to go that way.

Salads and Appetizers

Complimentary bread

Complimentary bread

The meal started out with complimentary Bread, and I thought it was about as good as I find in other upscale Italian restaurants. I do not know if they give free refills because I am never able to eat all of the original serving.

House salad

House salad

Salads cost extra, including the House Salad I ordered. The salad was fresh, but to me it seemed “busy” with so many ingredients it really did not have a distinguishing flavor. I do not remember the salads being particularly notable at the old Tommy’s, and probably the same is true here. It is a good filler, though, if you do not think the dinner will be enough for your appetite.

Santa Fe chicken soup

Santa Fe chicken soup

The Santa Fe Chicken Soup was a very good start to one of my meals, with a fresh flavor and large chunks of chicken. The soup contains green chile, although not very much and it is not particularly spicy.

Pizza

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

I was very anxious to try the Margherita Pizza, which I remember as being one of the best I have had at the old Tommy’s. This one was as good as I remembered, with excellent cheese and crust (the components of a pizza which I many times find lacking at restaurants). The toppings did not seem any better or worse than at most Italian restaurants, with the exception that it had a rather small amount of basil, but what was there was very aromatic and flavorful (thus the pizza overall still rates as one of my favorites).

Pizzas come in only one size (I believe they told me it was 14 inches), and the one I had was just about right for two people provided they both ordered salads (thus my instinct about ordering the salad was correct). The waiter told me that this pizza had a little different flavor that at the old Tommy’s because of the wood fired grill (considering how good the crust tasted, I would say this was a very good move to make at the new restaurant).

Tommy's New York pizza

Tommy’s New York pizza

Tommy’s New York Pizza is a good choice if you want meat toppings. I thought the pepperoni was best, though, and next time I would skip the sausage. For my taste I would say the Margherita pizza is better because while its toppings are on the sparse side, the New York pizza is a little over the top, particularly with the spicy sausage. The components of Tommy’s pizza I really appreciate are the crust, cheese, and sauce, and I like the pizzas that do not overwhelm these flavors with the toppings.

Lasagna

Lasagna

Lasagna

While I thought the sausage was a little much for the pizza, it is a good mix in the Lasagna (along with the beef). This was one of my favorite dishes at the old Tommy’s, and is less so now because I am not as much of a meat eater (otherwise, though, it is as good as I remembered).

Parmigiana Dishes

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana so far is my choice as the best meat item at Tommy’s. What I like most about this dish is not that it has a unique style that differentiates it from other restaurants such as Papa Dio’s or Vito’s, but that it is very much the same. The side dishes might be a little more interesting than at the other restaurants, though.

The Eggplant Parmigiana had what to me was a fatal flaw–the eggplant tasted like eggplant. This is somewhat of a joke, but I do think the eggplant is better at some other restaurants.

Chicken Picatta

Chicken picatta

Chicken picatta

The Chicken Picatta was somewhat of a surprise to me because of the fact that it was one of the best dishes I have experienced at Tommy’s (at most restaurants this would not be the case). For me the sauce had the right amount of lemon flavor and the chicken was very good as well. I always consider it a gamble when I order something that does not have red sauce, but in this case it definitely paid off.

Other Comments
I do not know the best dishes here because I mainly stick to the ones I used to order at the old Tommy’s. Having tried the chicken picatta, though, I know it is worth exploring the menu to try other items.

About fifty percent of the reason I like Tommy’s, though, is the pizza. I think it has the best crust in OKC, and the other components are good enough to make this overall one of the best in the city.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Italian
Cost: $$$ (but pizza is cheaper)
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, Wine

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 14, 2017
Number of Visits: 6
Best Items: Margherita Pizza, Chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna, Chicken Picatta, Santa Fe Chicken Soup

Special Ratings
star 5 Margharita Pizza
star 5 New York Pizza
star 5 Chicken Parmigiana
star 5 Chicken Picatta
star 5 Lasagna
star 4 Eggplant Parmigiana
star 5 Santa Fe Chicken Soup
star 4 House Salad