Their ads, billboards and website are done very well from a marketing perspective which made me a bit suspicious about the quality of the product otherwise known as form over substance. As a result, I went there not expecting too much so that I would not be disappointed.
Oregano’s is primarily billed as a pizza bistro however I went there because Thursday night is my pasta, meatball and sausage ritual. I must say when I read that they offer Chianti in a wicker wrapped bottle I was hooked like a fish that swallowed a treble hook. Lol!
You’ll immediately notice that this location has appeal and spunk to it as you walk through a fictional backyard, which has seating and a bar. If you go left you head into a door that leads to one of the dining areas. They have two dining areas of which one houses an additional bar and the cooking area.
When we walked past the open kitchen area I was thrilled to see a vintage two level pizza oven like we have back east. Based upon what I could tell it was a late 1960’s to mid-1970’s oven … nice. Since pizza was the feature item we decided to get an 18” round plain cheese pie ($15.50), well done, as an appetizer with our first bottle of Chianti ($20). When the pizza arrived I was surprised to see that it was not cut into the traditional eight slices but into small squares. I understand why the rectangular Sicilian pies are cut into squares but not why it would be done with a round pie. The only other time I saw this was a couple years ago in Providence. I have seen round pies cut into 12 slices if you are trying to make the size smaller. Or as Yogi Berra once said when asked how he wanted his pizza sliced he said into four slices because I cannot eat eight! Overall the pizza exceeded our expectations however the bottom crust was “hard” which is usually associated with over worked dough or too much cornmeal. I mentioned this to our friendly waiter who said they press their special dough with a “400 psi” machine and do not use any cornmeal. For fans of “grease” there was a bit of an oil drip from a few of the pieces.
For entrees we went with two orders of the Bolla Pasta ($7) w/one meatball and one sausage for each order, Oregano’s Pasta Basta ($9) and a Big Red Pasta ($9) with two meatballs. Each meatball or sausage is $3.29 … you can order as many as you want.
The Bollo Pasta comes with angel hair pasta in their “spicy” marinara sauce. The sauce was a bit chunky and had good flavor but there was not much of it. For all the dishes the pasta was drained very well so there was no water lurking in the bottom to dilute the sauce. I needed to ask for more which was not an issue. The only negative was that oregano was sprinkled around the bowl which gave it too strong a taste. Sometimes fresh oregano can be overpowering The Pasta Basta came with penne pasta, spiced feta cheese, kalamata olives, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes and olive oil infused with garlic and hot peppers … note there is no red sauce in it. It was outstanding. The Big Rig Pasta was a large bowl of rigatoni pasta covered with a tomato-chipotle cream sauce, basil, diced tomatoes, Parmesan with a spicy infusion. It too was outstanding.
The meatballs are made with a combination of beef and pork, in addition to their family recipe additions and are made on site. They were a decent size and were very “tender” with good overall balanced flavor. They are cooked “raw” in sauce and not browned first in a pan or the oven. The sausage is made in Chicago and again utilizes their recipe. What I like best about the sausage was the taste of fennel and what I didn’t like was that it is deep fried and very salty. So if you want some meat I suggest you go with the meatballs. They also offer chicken which we did not try.
Our waiter Michael sat with us for a bit as we talked about food differences on the east coast vs. Chicago vs. Arizona. He even gave us a history lesson on the restaurant we were in. There are I believe 14 of these restaurants spread across Arizona so there is no excuse for you not to bring in the “famiglia” and have a great, simple and tasty meal.
Total cost was $125 which included tax and a 20% tip.
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