Won’t you be my neighbor?
Two new eateries open in Brookside, one offering time-honored Italian recipes and the other featuring delectable upscale pub fare.
Mondo’s eggplant Parmesan
The Brookside strip has seen an influx of local eateries over the last year, and two of the most recent additions happened to open right across the street from each other at approximately the same time. It seems fitting to introduce you to the pair — one with a storied past, the other a newcomer in a long-loved bar space — at the same time so you can enjoy a great night out in Brookside.
Mondo’s Ristorante Italiano
You would be hard-pressed to find a longtime Tulsa resident who doesn’t have memories of dining at Mondo’s. The quaint trattoria might be new to Brookside, but for those of you who don’t know, Mondo’s was a Tulsa mainstay for nearly 30 years before it closed in 1997. I have many fond memories of the Aloisio family as well as their delicious linguine with clams and tart house salad dressing — I’ve never been able to duplicate it wholly.
Many local food lovers have told me they were sad to see Gemma’s Woodfire Grill and talented chef Ian van Anglen vacate the spot, but they were happy to know that a long-lost favorite was returning.
The Aloisios have run Mondo’s since the beginning. Louis Aloisio opened the restaurant in 1969 in a strip center at East 61st Street and South Peoria Avenue as a way to share his family’s recipes. They moved to East 59th Street and South Lewis Avenue in 1990 (with his son Rob on board) and stayed until the restaurant was sold in 1997.
Louis is there today, right alongside Rob, and both are busy greeting diners, chatting up tables and bussing dishes. Rob’s kids are even in on the act, hostessing and bussing as well.
The long, narrow space is lined with leather booths and numerous photos (both old and new) of generations of the Aloisio family. I spotted a photo of Rob’s three children almost immediately, surrounded by images of what I can only guess are grandparents of the great variety. The Aloisios inherited Gemma’s gorgeous wood-burning oven, which churns out eight varieties of pizza made with flour imported from Naples ($12-$18), including the namesake “Roberto” topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, pineapple and jalapenos.
The rest of the menu is redolent of an Italian restaurant in any city, but these recipes have all been handed down from generations through the Aloisio family. Many dishes, such as Papa Nicoangelo’s Clams and Linguine (big chunks of clams tossed with linguine in a rich, buttery sauce) and the enormous handmade cheese ravioli, were favorites at the old restaurant. Fortunately, much of the original menu has remained intact.
You will also find delicious baked pastas, such as lasagna and manicotti; subs; salads; and a handful of appetizers. Portions are generous — not served family style but big enough to feed a family. Dinners also come with hot garlic bread and a choice of dinner salad or soup, so plan accordingly. But make sure to save room for dessert. The cannoli are great; the cheesecake is even better.
R Bar & Grill
Poutine. R Bar & Grill had me at poutine. I have long been hoping and praying that one of our great local chefs would take on this French-Canadian classic (fresh-cut french fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds), and chef Trevor Tack answered my prayers. More on that in a minute.
R Bar & Grill opened recently in a spot with big shoes to fill. The Blue Rose Café took up the Brookside corner for 10 years, followed by BruHouse. R Bar threw out those shoes and bought nicer ones, Louboutins even.
In the totally revamped space, R Bar may be half-bar, but it is also half-grill, and the food is why customers flock here, as the owners lured Tack to Brookside.
They wanted serious food in a bar setting (with an actual chef on the premises), and Tack, formerly executive chef of the delicious but short-lived SoChey and most recently Main Street Tavern, developed a menu heavy on creativity and high on options.
With small plates ruling the lineup, the menu is perfect for those wishing to nosh a bit while sipping wine al fresco — I’ve been waiting for someone in town to offer cheese, charcuterie and nibbles such as marinated olives, roasted garlic and crusty bread.
Heartier small plates include a soft Bavarian pretzel ($5) and that poutine (poo-TEEN). Crispy hand-cut fries are topped with cold, fresh cheese curds (which Tack gets from LOMAH Dairy in Wyandotte, Okla.) before receiving a dousing of steaming-hot brown gravy, which warms the cheese without melting it completely. You’ll never look at cheese fries the same way again.
Tack also features a selection of hearty entrées, including made-for-each-other fried chicken and waffles ($13) that are drizzled with a honey-pecan glaze, ale-braised short ribs ($15) served with onion jam and truffled sage fries, and a colossal pork chop topped with cherry bordelaise sauce ($16).
A small yet creative selection of flatbread pizzas includes Tack’s favorite item on the menu, a classic combo of fig, prosciutto and goat cheese.
The sleek interior, with its glossy granite bar, has garnered quite a crowd since opening day, and nice weather and cold drinks have kept the prime patio full. R Bar features about 20 beers on tap, plus most of the other usual suspects, both bottled and canned.
Whatever you do, leave room for dessert, for the maple-soaked donut holes will have you hooked. That and a pot of French press coffee and I’m happy to call it a night.