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

 

Family Pho–Weatherford, OK

Family Pho and Rolls (Closed)
1021 E. Davis Ave.
Weatherford, OK
Family Pho

Family Pho and Rolls


Family Pho and Rolls follows a popular trend in serving both Vietnamese food and sushi (at least the style of sushi that includes California rolls, etc.). Outside of a couple of Chinese restaurants I think this is the only Asian restaurant in Weatherford, so I think it makes sense for this restaurant to provide any other dishes they can that would be popular in this small college town.

While Chinese food tends to become more Americanized in smaller towns, Vietnamese food has tasted pretty much the same everywhere I have tried it (but the menu choices are more limited in small towns). This is good for me because I love what most Vietnamese restaurants are serving, and these tend to be reliable choices even where Chinese restaurants are not. Family Pho was exactly as I thought it would be–good food but with a rather small menu.

After my comments about Chinese restaurants I need to point out that I have liked the ones I have tried in Weatherford. My favorite place in town, Young China, has closed, but the people at Family Pho told me the owners have now opened the Hibachi Buffet.

Vermicelli Bowl

House vermicelli

House vermicelli

The type of dish I was wanting happened to coincide with what seemed to be the restaurant’s special dish, the House Vermicelli. This did not come with my normal choice of chicken, but the pork they served had a very good flavor and is another type of meat I like. It had the added benefit of an excellent spring roll. The fish sauce was very good, and I especially liked the chile sauce (which can be seen in the small bowl on the lower right side).

Two things I normally like in a vermicelli bowl were lacking–peanuts and mint. Everything else was good enough that it pretty much made up for these deficiencies (I can say for sure that the spring roll was more satisfying than the peanuts would have been). Overall this was definitely a very good vermicelli dish.

Tea
I was disappointed that they did not have any hot tea, but iced tea was available. I would say this made the restaurant somewhat Americanized, but the food was good and it did not have a great impact on the meal.

An Assessment
Everything I had was good, but the negative aspects were the things I was not able to have (peanuts, mint, hot tea, etc.). In spite of this I would not hesitate to come back. At restaurants I usually like to order things again that I enjoyed previously (in this case it is the House Vermicelli). They do have other types of vermicelli bowls, though, as well as other items (mainly the pho and rolls implied by their name).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Mon.
Accessible: Yes, but maybe the sidewalk is a little steep
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 30, 2017
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: House Vermicelli

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Iced Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 House Vermicelli

 

Barrigas–El Paso, TX

Barrigas Restaurant
(Closed)
664 Sunland Park Dr.
El Paso, TX
Barrigas on Sunland Park

Barrigas on Sunland Park


This upscale Ciudad Juarez restaurant has recently branched out into El Paso, and provides some of the most authentic Mexican food around. Probably the best feature of Barrigas is the varied menu, with many items not traditionally found in the U.S. Mexican restaurants (although this type of menu variety is increasingly found in El Paso restaurants).

Barrigas seems to specialize in meat items, particularly in finding flavorful ways to combine meat, cheese, and other ingredients. It is also a good place to go if you like a variety of salads, appetizers (such as queso fundido), desserts, and shrimp. Margaritas and other drinks are served.

The background noise and music at Barrigas can sometimes be at such a high level it is hard to hold a conversation. When they have had live mariachi bands, though, the quality of the music has been such I have not minded the temporary inconvenience in trying to converse with others at the table.

Chips and Salsa
The Chips are somewhat greasy and the Salsa has sometimes been too spicy with jalapeno peppers, but the salsa seemed to improve a lot starting about 2006. In fact I would say it is now very close to the classic El Paso and Ciudad Juarez style salsa that is spicy and flavorful, and perhaps a little heavy on extra spices that are thrown in.

The Pico de Gallo that is sometimes served in addition to the salsa is quite good, but it is usually not offered.

Enchiladas
The Red Enchiladas are good, but they are not my favorite in El Paso and I prefer them on a combination plate with other items. While they are a good example of Ciudad Juarez style enchiladas, I prefer the New Mexico style chile that does not have as many spices that modify the flavor as the Mexican style red chile. These enchiladas may be more suitable than the New Mexico style, though, for people who do not like them extremely spicy.

Chicken enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas

Green Enchiladas are made with puréed green chile that is normally very easy to make too spicy and not very flavorful, but the ones at Barrigas are an exception. I find the green chile here to have a flavor that is very similar to the New Mexico style green chile, although milder. These enchiladas also use melted Mexican cheese on top of the chile as well as inside the enchilada, adding to the flavor and making them among the best green enchiladas in El Paso. The green enchiladas seem to taste better with chicken inside and a side order of sour cream to make Enchiladas Suizas, not on the menu as such but is one of the better versions of this dish.

Flautas
Flautas here are well above average using thick, flavorful chunks of chicken and a large quantity of guacamole in which to dip it.

Mole
Chicken Mole is served the traditional Ciudad Juarez style, with chicken mixed into the mole, and Barrigas is one of the best. The mole sauce is not too sweet and I think has a very smooth and delicious taste. Some say mole is an acquired taste, but the one here is a good place to start if you want a more authentic version.

Enmoladas

Enmoladas

Enmoladas, or mole enchiladas, are a way to enjoy the sauce without the chicken (enchiladas are served either with cheese or chicken). With a side order of flour tortillas I really like the mole sauce just as well as on the chicken dinner. To me, though, the enchiladas have a strong corn oil flavor that makes this a less desirable dish than the chicken mole dinner. I am tempted to go on a rant here about the less nutritious and less well balanced food customers frequently receive when they try to order vegetarian dinners, and this is a clear example. One alternative would be to order a mole burrito which is not fried (and would probably have little or no corn oil). In my opinion, though, the best flavor comes with the chicken mole dinner. Mexican food seems to be at its best when you order it with meat.

Chile Relleno
The Chiles Rellenos have been quite greasy at times but other times have been quite good. The yellow tomato sauce served on top of the relleno is flavorful. For the most part I would recommend against ordering it here–other restaurants have much better rellenos.

Puntas de Filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de filete

Puntas de Filete is a dish of sirloin tips that is served with a choice of several sauces. I enjoyed it not only because of its flavor, but because it is something that is not served in a great number of restaurants. I suspect all the sauces are good, but if you have a hard time deciding I think the waiters will give their suggestions.

Side Dishes
Rice and beans are very good, and overall you should expect a good meal here. Barrigas does not take the time to make Mexican style agua fresca drinks, but I have been pretty happy with the food, and the prices are not bad.

More About the Restaurant
Barrigas is open late (10 p.m.) on weekdays, and later on weekends. The outdoor patio is an excellent idea to take advantage of the El Paso weather, but smoking is allowed making it unusable to me. Because of this, the usually cold air inside, and frequent loud noise, I would have to give low marks for the restaurant’s atmosphere. Still, though, it is one of the better places to get good Mexican food in an upscale setting.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Mexican Chihuahua
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer, drinks

Most Recent Visit: Feb. 27, 2008
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Flautas, Chicken Mole, Green Enchiladas

 

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Cooking Oil: Vegetable

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas with chicken and sour cream
star 5 Flautas
star 5 Mole
star 4 Enmoladas
star 3 Chile Relleno
star 5 Puntas de Filete
star 4 Beans
star 5 Rice
star 4 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 3 Lemonade