#82 - Russo's New York Pizzeria - Tulsa, OK

I'm kind of obsessed with Whole Foods. Even though most of the stuff is crazy over-priced, I could (and do) spend hours in there looking for items I can't live without. There are a few fresh vegetables I only find there and I used to buy a lot of bulk rice/beans/grains there until I discovered Sprouts.  Usually I buy whole chunks of parmesan cheese and the whole wheat pizza dough because its delicious, inexpensive, made in-house, and I can portion and freeze it. Of course there's no Whole Foods in Stillwater... sadly it would never survive in this town. So whenever I go to OKC or Tulsa, I make sure to stop there.  A new Whole Foods just recently opened not far from where I stayed the night of Shannon & Erin's baby shower, so the next morning I went and checked it out. Walked around for over an hour, bought maybe 4 items.

By the time I was done with Whole Foods I was starving. And I had read about Russo's New York Pizzeria, which had recently opened practically across the street. There's a large patio that wraps around 2 sides of the restaurant, but  only 8 tables so there's lots of space out there.  The inside is beautiful, with rich wood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire expanse of the patio, smallish bar area with several flat-screen TVs.

The restaurant was packed, but luckily there was one table left in the dining area and I was seated immediately. The dining area itself isn't very large. There are 6 booths along the windows and 15 tables so its pretty compact,  but it works.

My server was very nice, but also extremely busy.  Personally I would have liked to see one more server working, particularly since its the Sunday post-church crowd, and therefore very crowded.  The menu is huge. It reminds me of Cheesecake Factory or BJ's Brewhouse, with lots of pages.

While I perused the menu, my server brought bread to the table

The bread was so fantastic!!  It came to the table warm, which I absolutely love.  It was flatbread baked with lots of herbs, and the additional herbs with the olive oil just added to the flavor. I could have eaten that bread all day.  I was disappointed though because my server didn't mix the oil with the herbs, as is customary in other restaurants.  And I saw other servers doing it for other tables.  Maybe it's because I was by myself... maybe it's because she was busy... but I was still disappointed.  But I got over it, mixed the oil and herbs myself, and dug in.

I knew it would take me a while to decide what to eat, so I went ahead and ordered a house salad
Crisp romaine lettuce, red onion, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, roma tomatoes, 
and red cabbage, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
I really like the it's all romaine lettuce. The veggies were ice cold and fresh, and the Chianti balsamic vinaigrette was delicious. I forgot to ask for no olives. I love olive oil, but I've never been a fan of olives.  I ate one because I keep trying to like them, but I just can't get past the saltiness.

I had so much trouble deciding what to order.  Everything sounded good, but I knew I wanted pasta because they make their own.  The manager eventually came over and helped me decide on the chicken al pesto. 
Grilled chicken with house-made pesto sauce, romano cheese,
sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, over penne pasta.
What really sold me on ordering the dish was the pesto.  I have a big basil plant at home and love making pesto, and have become kind of obsessed with it.  I have to say I was really disappointed that this was a creamy pesto so the dish was heavier than I expected.  Don't get me wrong I love cream sauce with the best of them, but I wasn't expecting it.  To me the menu should say "pesto cream sauce", because not everyone eats or likes cream.  I guess I could have asked, but I didn't think I needed to.  Lesson learned.  Disappointment #2 was that the dish was little more than room temperature.  While I waited for my meal I noticed that other dishes came out screaming hot, and I could see the steam from 2 tables away.  So my dish had obviously been sitting for a little bit.

Negatives aside, the dish was very good.  I love all the ingredients and they meshed very well together.  And, the food lower down in the dish was hotter.  So it had definitely been sitting.  I thought about complaining, but it had already taken quite a while for me to get my food and I really didn't want to wait more.  So I continued to eat the bread while I was eating my main dish.  Even once I was full, I couldn't stop eating the bread.  So when my server came to take my dish I made her take the bread too.

I noticed the manager walking around constantly checking on tables.  I think Russo's has only been open less than a year so I'm guessing he's making sure people are happy.  He's also very involved; I saw him constantly walking back and forth from kitchen, cleaning off tables, helping to seat customers, etc.  I like that in a manager. I try to do that myself, because I feel that when staff sees their boss not afraid to do the dirty work, it inspires them. 

Will I go back?  Yes I will.  The place was packed, and I saw numerous tables turn over while I was there.  And I saw other servers doing the things that my server missed.  So obviously they're doing something right.  I want to give it another chance, try another dish, and get some more of that amazing bread!