Your guide to eating out from a vegetarian who doesn’t want to cook
Pasta. Definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, and of most people I know. Thankfully for vegetarians, it’s easy to keep it meat-free. Interestingly, some researchers believe pasta did not originate in Italy, but was brought there by Marco Polo after a trip to China in 1271. Others believe it came to Italy via nomadic Arabs in Ninth Century AD. Either way, Italians clearly perfected pasta, which has become synonymous with their cuisine. I decided to indulge at two local Italian spots. One has been around for decades, and the other is much newer to the metro, however, both offer multiple vegetarian options, which will guarantee satisfaction when you decide to splurge.
Victoria’s Pasta Shop
Having spent my college days in Norman, I’ve enjoyed Victoria’s for twenty years. It was only appropriate that I was listening to Wonderwall as I was parking, because when I stepped inside, I was hit with a flood of memories. The walls are adorned with art you can purchase, and the front of the building is glass, so you can watch people enjoying Campus Corner. Many establishments have come and gone since my time in Norman, but Victoria’s has stood the test of time. Glancing at the menu, there are plenty of freshly-made vegetarian pasta options, but I suggest getting the Best of Victoria’s. This lets you choose three different types of pasta, which will give you a good taste of what they have to offer. Popular choices are: the spaghetti with marinara, linguini with garlic butter, and fettuccini Alfredo. All are delicious; however, I prefer to choose one of the more distinctive pastas. Victoria’s whole wheat linguini with lemon-garlic butter sauce and mushrooms is so fantastic, that my meat-eating husband orders it every time he goes. The primavera spaghetti is also tossed in the lemon-garlic butter sauce, and includes plenty of veggies, providing a variety of textures in each bite. My favorite is, and has always been the pesto, which changes daily, but which is always fantastic. On my most recent visit, the pesto was sundried tomato, spinach, and black pepper. No surprise, it was terrific. If you go on a football game day, get there early or be prepared to wait. Seemingly all of us who enjoyed Victoria’s years ago as students, come back for the nostalgia, delicious food, and maybe just for an excuse to listen to Oasis.
Patrono is a recent addition to downtown Oklahoma City. It is an establishment that offers the lighter flavors of southern Italian cuisine. While northern Italian cooking relies heavily on cream and butter, southern Italian food emphasizes the use of olive oil and vegetables such as eggplants and peppers. This is my kind of Italian food. When I called to make a reservation, I mentioned that I was a vegetarian. Surprisingly, when I walked in and said my name, I was greeted with, “You’re the vegetarian, right?” Points for making a note of dietary restrictions and caring enough to verify. After enjoying appetizers and perusing the dinner menu, our waiter told me they can make any pasta on the menu vegetarian. Having multiple options that are truly vegetarian (no hidden chicken broth, lard, etc.), is almost overwhelming. First I considered the fettuccine Palermo, with confit eggplant, black olives, roasted red peppers, and ricotta salata. This is the option on the menu that is vegetarian without modification. Next up was the bucatini amatriciana, which includes tomato sauce, onions, hot peppers, and pecorino romano. I would need to request it without the guanciale, which is pork. (Google can be helpful when you aren’t sure about an ingredient.) I ultimately went with the spaghetti Puttanesca, minus anchovies. It has tomatoes, garlic, onions, hot peppers, olives and oregano. At Patrono, they toss the pasta in the sauce instead of smothering it. This provides a much lighter taste. The Puttanesca was truly delicious, with a hint of spice. (Although, I love spicy foods, so a hint of spice for me may be spicy to someone who doesn’t.) Patrono is convenient to both the Civic Center and the OKC Museum of Art. I look forward to an evening that includes Patrono again.