Offering Made-From-Scratch, Old World Italian Fare — and So much More

During its 14 years of existence, Benvenuti’s Ristorante has garnered a well-deserved reputation for its signature, made-from-scratch Old World Italian dishes created by master chef Anthony Compagni. It’s the restaurant of choice for many area residents for celebrations like birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Others enjoy the warm atmosphere, great service and, of course, great food and drink throughout the year. It’s also a great gathering space for business people and organizations.

The menu is quite extensive, and one could go for some time trying new appetizers and entrees without repeating any, especially since the menu is constantly undergoing review and updating. More and more, the restaurant is becoming known for its steak and seafood selection as well.

“We use only prime beef, or better, for our steaks, and often feature Kobe and Waygu,” notes Benvenuti’s general manager Tarasina Compagni. “We have a 32 oz. Kobe Bone-in Tomahawk Ribeye on the menu as well as an 8 oz. Prime Filet. We only source meat from ranchers who guarantee hormone- and antibiotic-free and grass-fed beef. And our seafood is flown in twice weekly.

“Chef Anthony Compagni will try product from a number of sources to make sure he serves only the best of what’s available.”

Chef Anthony – always on the lookout to make diners’ experience fresh, memorable and pleasurable – also offers a monthly Chef’s Menu.

The Chef’s Menu features two dishes paired with wine or beer. November’s offerings are Veal Cheeks with Roasted Heirloom Pumpkin Risotto, served with Banfi “Summus,” a red blend; and Clams and Sausage with Fregola Sarda Pasta in Tomato Brodo with David Arthur “Mertaggio,” another red blend.

The Chef’s Menus is varied based on seasonal ingredients and the chef’s culinary creativity. (Spoiler Alert! In July, they often feature the Benvenuti Burger paired with a beer.) “We will put our burger against any out there!” Tarasina says.

In addition to its popular lineup of other desserts, many patrons come back regularly to sample their sumptuous pastries, made daily.

Do you appreciate fine wines? Benvenuti’s has one of the best wine lists in the state, in both quality and quantity (over 260). And to keep things fresh, twice a year the wine list is revamped!

“We will not put a wine on the list unless we have personally tasted and approved it,” Tarasina says, adding, “We launched our new menu on Nov. 1. We will be bringing in 33 new wines.”

A new feature on the wine menu is the “Wanderlust–For The Love Of Travel” section. This is inspired by Tarasina’s love of global travel and showcases some favorites from across the globe, from South Africa to Chile.

Chef Anthony also has a section of “Chef Picks,” featuring his 10 most favorite wines on the list.

Tarasina notes that their menu has “taken a direction of focusing on boutique, unique, small family-owned vineyards” as well.

Benvenuti’s also has a thriving catering business that, well, caters to events ranging from “Tailgate to Top Hat and Tails.”

“We do much more than Italian!” she says. “We can cater everything from brunch, barbecue, Mexican, Chinese, boxed lunches, plated formal dinners, in-home cocktail parties. If you can think of it, we can do it.”

Recently, for example, Benvenuti’s has catered 1,100 boxed lunches, a baby shower for 30 people with an Italian soda bar and mini dessert bar, a tailgate for 250 people, a sorority fundraiser for 500 people with a Mexican buffet and multiple bars, and a plated formal dinner in a client’s home for 15 people.

“We can cater at The Nest at Terra Verde, the Boathouse, The Studio at Sooner Theater, the Sam Noble Museum, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Riverwind Casino, and other venues,” Tarasina says.  “We can do drop-off, buffet or plated meals at any location.”

Benvenuti’s, Tarasina adds, will work with most budgets. “We almost always can create a custom menu that will fit style and budget.”

But wait. Benvenuti’s also offers services like helping arrange special event details such as linens, furniture, flowers and entertainment. “We strive to exceed our guests’ expectations and we always want planning to be as easy for the guest as possible,” Tarasina says.

For more information on Benvenuti’s catering services, call Margaret Wherle at 310.5271.

Personal Experience Recounted

Having sampled some of Benvenuti Ristorante’s fabulous fare at Cleveland County Lifestyle’s Women of Influence dinners the past two years, I was ready to check out more of its offerings. So, in late September, I invited several members of my family, along with two friends, for a night of great food and drink.

We started with several delightful appetizers, including two recommended by Benvenuti’s general manager, Tarasina Compagni: Risotto Arancini and Crab Claws; we especially enjoyed the latter, which is served in a tasty garlic lemon white wine butter sauce. Additionally, we ordered meatballs, which they make with veal, pork and beef, and fried Calamari. Suffice it to say, the only appetizer left over was one meatball, which one or our party claimed for his lunch the next day!

I ordered the Caprese salad, which I shared. A fan of heirloom tomatoes, which my mother used to grow, I’ll definitely order this salad again. For my entrée, I selected the Chicken Piccatta, featuring lightly pounded chicken scallopini in a flavorful lemon caper sauce, served up with a side of garlic potatoes. Loved this dish, and there was enough of it to save some for the next day. (Truthfully, though, it got finished off that same evening. LOL)

I’ll let the other parties at my table offer their own thoughts on their Benvenuti’s evening.

My sister, Lori Hanna, called her experience “excellent.” “The staff was very attentive, the food superior (I had the Chicken Milanese). Too good for words. It truly melts in your mouth. Portion size was enormous. Unfortunately, they ran out of their signature Tiramisu, which is my favorite dessert. I’m assuming that other patrons must feel the same about this dish and that is why they ran out. Ambience was quaint, yet elegant.”

Lori also ordered the Greco salad; though all she said was “delicious,” I noticed that she cleaned her plate.

My niece and nephew-in-law, Lindsey and Evan Davies, were impressed with the “caring waitstaff, who took the time to explain dishes and elaborate on ingredients.”

 “We were sat at a family-style round table with a central turntable so appetizers and other goods could be freely shared,” they noted. “Service was prompt, and we were impressed with the presentation of the food, which was like art. Of course, the flavors of each dish were exquisite. We split a Tartufo pizza and the Wild Boar Gnocchi and were equally impressed with both dishes. Dessert took our experience to a new level, and the Flourless Chocolate Torte has become a family favorite.”

“Our meal was absolutely delicious, from the appetizers to the salad to the entrée, Gamberetti, to the dessert (Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake – all was to die for. Best meal, ever!” exclaimed Julia Dowling.

“It was a super evening and the food was fantastic,” said Eddie, Julia’s husband. “The meatballs were the best I have had in a long time, and the pepperoni pizza was a knockout.” Eddie also praised the Creme Brulee, which, by the way, is one of several gluten-free desserts offered.

Did I mention Lindsey and Evan’s 2-year-old accompanied us for dinner? The little guy tried virtually everything and seemed especially taken with the caper berries in his Gramma Lori’s salad!

If you’re looking for a place to eat that offers great ambiance, terrific service, well-prepared and artfully presented foods, along with a roster of irresistible desserts and a huge wine selection, you’ll definitely want to check out Benvenuti’s Ristorante in Norman.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Benvenuti’s Ristorante is located at 105 W. Main St., Norman. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are suggested, especially on weekends and for large parties. For more information, visit BenvenutisRistorante.com.