Benvenuti's Ristorante 4

Dedicated to Satisfying Customers’ Hearts and Stomachs

Artful is certainly an understatement, I think, as I walk away from Benvenuti’s Ristorante, 105 W. Main St. in Norman. My dining experience took me straight to the heart of Italy, where all of my feasting practices were left behind and my new tradition began to take hold.

“This is traditional Italian dining,” General Manager Tarasina Compagni says. “Americans, we kind of get in a hurry, whereas Italians, we’ll tend to dine at a leisurely pace.”

Her brother, Anthony Compagni, serves as head chef at Benvenuti’s, and they are known for serving family recipes belonging to their grandmother and grandfather. All meals are made to order.

Anthony makes his own recipe for pasta from scratch and his grandfather’s Italian sausage recipe daily. Their pastry chef arrives every morning to make what will be a mouth-watering delight for patrons throughout the day. Nothing is premade.

“Food is an experience for us,” says Tarasina. She cites the fact that in Italy, a meal may take two or three hours to enjoy. At Benvenuti’s, their goal is to satisfy the stomach and heart of every customer.

“At Benvenuti’s, our guests are family, and we only want to give them the best–so we do not compromise on ingredients. We only source the best.”

The knowledgeable and attentive waitress began my meal with a traditional Italian apéritif, which is the drink that “opens the channels for the food,” explains Tarasina. I began with the bruschetta. Let me take a moment to discuss this masterpiece.

Several crostinis topped with Burrata cheese–essentially mozzarella cheese wrapped around ricotta–pesto and house-made roasted tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. The flavor in this dish was absolutely unreal, and even after a several-course meal, it is still arguable that the bruschetta completed my night. My review could stop here.

But as we continue, the Mussel Sambuca with tomato-sage broth was the next adventure for my taste buds. Perfect for slurping, as big Eaters do, and perfect for dipping the Compagni’s homemade bread.

As each course became heavier, my drink selection turned to wine, as Italian custom indicates. But this Broman is not just any cabernet–and I’m not typically a cabernet person–but Broman was delivered in limited stock, and Benvenuti’s is one of the very few places where it is available. Smooth and not overwhelming, its mellow taste did not distract from the meal whatsoever. It only added to the experience.

Two entrees followed this course. The Pasta from Hell is made with fettuccine, pepperoni, their homemade Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, red peppers, tomatoes, Serrano peppers and cream. But Hell, you say? This pasta was from heaven. Its spice was not too hot, but its flavor was overwhelmingly creamy and divine. It was truly sinful.

In royal fashion, I ended my dinner with the most delectable of menu items–one that I was ecstatic to try and even happier with my selection. The Grilled Lamb Rack with Gratin Potatoes was absolutely mouth-watering. The meat fell off the bone; the potatoes were sliced so thin you could gluttonously savor each slice, and the tastes as one were everything you hope from such a rare dish.

As my digestif, my customary post-meal beverage, I relished in the Affogato (“drowned” in Italiano). A shot of Italian espresso truly drowned the vanilla gelato with Frangelico liqueur. Enough caffeine to survive the journey home, but enough sweet cream and liquor to give my taste buds one last delight.

Benvenuti’s has one of the most extensive wine lists in Oklahoma and all of the Midwest, with 300 wines in their selection. Their most expensive bottle of wine costs $900 and they have a $70 steak on the menu, but the prices have not stopped the average indulger. Benvenuti’s has a daily happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. wherein they offer $5 appetizers, $5 wines by the glass and $5 cocktails, as well as beer for $2.50.

During my stay, I heard jazz renditions of classics, watched a first date progress and enjoyed watching the advancement of a rehearsal dinner. With two private rooms, Benvenuti’s is truly the greatest place for any lavish get-together.

“We expect every person that leaves our restaurant to be full and happy,” Tarasina closes. This is the fullest and happiest I’ve been. And I’ll be back.

For more information, call 310.5271 or visit benvenutisristorante.com/.